UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | December 03, 2023

PISA celebrates cultural diversity with luau

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Cultural dances from the Pacific came all the way to Dixie State University on Saturday for luau guests at the end of Diversity Week.

The dances were performed by the Pacific Islander Student Association; each dance represented different Pacific islands. 

Vika Havili, president of the PISA club and a junior biology major from Salt Lake City, was in charge of putting the luau together.

“It was not easy to organize the luau, but my favorite part was the dancing, for sure,” Havili said.

Havili said the members of the PISA all have different backgrounds but share similar values, so they understand each other. She said diversity is amazing to her and she was glad to help showcase the different cultures.

Lahela Manning, advisor of the Multicultral Diversity Center, said her favorite part of the luau was being able to see all the students get to showcase their culture.

“I literally get goosebumps when I hear our cultural music and [when I] see and hear that students have [the opportunity] to learn about [the] culture,” Manning said.

The first island represented was Hawaii. The dances performed were cultural dances that have been passed down from generations. The music was filled with drum beats, chanting and other unique sounds. 

After the Hawaiian dances came the dances from Samoa. The emcee for the luau said Samoans are known as the happy people. They enjoy life and being together with family and friends; the dances are the same way. The costumes were bright and the beat of all the songs were fast.

The next set of dances came from the area of New Zealand. The music played during the dances was a deep sound, comprised of hollowed out items made from wood, along with chanting.

The Tahitian dances that followed celebrated almost all life occasions. The most common instruments that you could hear in the music was a conch-shell, flute and drums.

The last island showcased was Tonga. Tongan dances are usually stories that are sung and danced by those who are telling the stories. The dances build just like the stories — they started with only two dancers and then more dancers were added to the dance as it went on.

“I think the luau reminds people about our culture,” Havili said. “[The dances] are a huge part of who we are and I love see everyone else enjoy it as much as I do.”

Manning said it is a great thing for not only the students but also the community to get to witness the culture.

“[The luau] is a great event because it teaches Dixie students and community members about the Polynesian spirit,” Manning said.