Lū’au showcases Polynesian culture through dance, song in sold-out performances

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Luau is a cultural event hosted by BYU’s Multicultural Student Services Office. Lū’au was held on Nov. 15-16, with both nights selling out. (Molly Zuniga)

The energy was high as performers representing various Polynesian islands danced and sang for the final night of Lū’au.

Cheers could be heard echoing down the halls of the Wilkinson Center Ballroom on Nov. 16 as performers concluded their sold-out performance. 

Two nights of performances were held on Nov. 15-16. All performances were sold out and sales were dedicated to the victims of the Lahaina fires, which devastated the island of Maui this past August. 

The Multicultural Student Services Office presents Lū’au every fall semester. Their website describes the Lū’au as “an event in which students showcase the diverse heritage and traditions of Polynesian peoples through music, song and dance.” 

The countries represented this year were New Zealand, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa and Hawaii.

According to Moises Aguirre, director of the Multicultural Student Services, Lū’au has been an annual performance at BYU for more than 20 years. 

“It’s part of our tradition, and it’s an opportunity to enrich the environment here at BYU,” Aguirre said.

For many in the audience, this year was their first time attending the Lū’au. Some participants even traveled from out of state to see their children perform. 

Keenan Kamae is originally from Hawaii and now lives in Evingston, Illinois. Kamae came to see his daughter perform in her second Lū’au performance and brought his youngest daughter to attend. 

He expressed feelings of being a proud father watching his daughter perform. 

Students in the Samoan section perform Fa’ataupati, the slap dance. The dance is performed by the men of the Samoan culture. (Molly Zuniga)

“I couldn’t be more proud. Very, very proud dad watching her dance on stage,” Kamae siad.

As the night progressed, the energy in the crowd continued to increase. There was cheering, singing and dancing among members of the audience.

For many of the dancers, participating in Lū’au is an opportunity to share their love for their culture with the audience members and BYU community.

Soana Laulotu, a BYU student from Carmel Valley, California and majoring in communications studies, performed the solo Tau’olunga for the Tongan section. The Tau’olunga is a traditional dance performed on special occasions. Laulotu said although she performed the solo, everyone behind her played a significant and important role. 

Soana Laulotu performed the Tau’olunga for the Tongan section. The Tau’olunga is a Tongan traditional dance performed for special occasions. (Molly Zuniga)

“It (the Tau’olunga) brings a sense of unity and love. It brings in our values from the island. For me to be able to do that was a wonderful opportunity. I loved seeing the smiles and everyone just having fun together. That’s honestly what Tonga is really about. Just bringing everyone together and bringing that Ofa — that love— to the stage and showcase it to everyone else,” Laulotu shared.

Hawaii took the stage for the final performance of the night. They performed a hula and other dances with smiles and danced to a live band. 

Auli’i Camacho, a student from Pearl City, Hawaii and junior in the global and supply chain management program, performed in the Hawaii section. 

Camacho expressed it has been a great experience to dance and be surrounded by other Hawaiians and people who celebrate their culture.

“It has brought a lot of Aloha love back into my heart. Growing up I always danced hula, and so being able to dance hula up here in Utah, it almost makes me feel like I’m home again,” Camacho said. 

Students from the Hawaii section gathered together to sing their final song. The Hawaiian section concluded this year’s Lū’au performance. (Molly Zuniga)

Hawaii concluded the performance by inviting all Lū’au performers onstage to join in singing a song for Lahaina.

Audience members rise to sing a song with the Hawaiian section. They have the Hawaiian flag spread out on their shoulders. (Molly Zuniga)

As they sang, audience members joined in and rose to their feet, some spreading the Hawaiian flag over their shoulders and others with tears in their eyes. 

The calamity of the fires has impacted the Hawaiian community significantly, with many students having family members and loved ones living on the island. The night was dedicated to those family members, loved ones and the people of Lahaina.  

“There was not a single dry eye in the room,” Aguirre commented.

Students who are interested in joining next year’s Lū’au can visit the MSS Office’s website for more information. 

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