Aucklanders are sampling a slice of Hawaii thanks to the vision of one dance teacher.
Aruna Po-Ching launched The Hula Journey - the country's first official Hawaiian hula school - at the Leys Institute Hall in St Marys Bay this week.
Ms Po-Ching has been a professional dancer since 1998 but says she was hooked by the hula while in Australia nearly a decade ago.
"I fell in love with it because it was so expressive and the movements are so unique, especially the footwork," she says.
"It is so empowering for women, in a spiritual sense and a graceful sense."
Back in New Zealand she began teaching the hula in a rundown church hall in Grey Lynn under the name Pasifika Sway in 2010.
The school was officially blessed by her own hula kumu (teacher) Blaine Kamalani Kia of Oahu, Hawaii, making it the 15th school in Mr Kia's global organisation that extends to Japan, Tahiti and California.
Relaunched with a new logo, new website and new location, Ms Po-Ching is giving her school a bigger profile to attract more would-be hula dancers.
"I want to perpetuate the hula and give it an identity in New Zealand," she says. "It is the closest culture to Maori in the world."
Her vision for the school is that it will be a place of holistic learning for her students, who range from children through to seniors.
"It's very important for me to remind the community culturally the values of life and what better way to do it but through song, dance and music."
US consul-general Jim Donegan and DANZ regional manager Susan Jordon spoke at the VIP launch.
After the speeches the students performed a variety of hula dances to an audience of about 100 people.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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