Aloha! was the rousing greeting given to the full house audience as they anxiously awaited the start of the "Polynesia," a cultural show that was presented at the Cleveland Elementary on April 5. This show is sponsored through a grant from the Artists in Residency Program and the Utah Arts Council.
The students of all K-sixth grades filed in orderly, looking for their parents, and giving big smiles. Each class was dressed in a different style of Polynesian costume, that created an array of color filling the entire floor of the school gymnasium.
The group of 15 men and women representing the various cultures: Tonga, Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, Fiji, and Tahiti, spent a two weeks residency at the school, teaching the children about the various customs and costumes of the Polynesian cultures. The students made head dresses, belts, necklaces, bracelets, and leis to go with the rest of the colorful costumes they were to wear for the performance. They were taught various dances, learned how to use poi balls, lumni (rhythm) sticks, learned songs and chants and greeting words to perform.
Salome Jansson was the artist in residence that came to Cleveland along with her husband, Evan Jansson. Salome was born in Tonga but came to the United States from New Zealand when she was in the 2nd grade. She taught dance, music, arts and crafts, stories and legends. She introduced most of the numbers, and lead the students throughout the performance.
Between each class presentation, the Polynesian men and women performed many numbers in beautiful native colorful costumes, both fast and slow rhythms, that were enjoyed by the audience and the studentbody as well. One dancer who was walking with crutches after an accident, dressed for her part, mounted the stage, was seated on a chair, and happily performed all the hand motions to one lovely song along with her fellow dancers.
The dances of the men and boys who portray the roles of rousing warriors is always a most exciting part. They jump so fast, whirl, and beat their chests, and try to intimidate the enemy. The highlight of the evening was when the 6th grade boys did a very intimidating dance, portraying scary warriors with snake tongues, and moved toward the audience, then jumped at the audience, with frightening gestures and a loud yell. One lady on the front row, jumped in response, much to the delight of the performing boys and the laughing audience.
Each student took home the items that they had made as part of their costume for a souvenir of the memorable evening.