Lona enthusiastically and patiently shares her art, knowledge, culture, and skill with dozens of people who have reached middle age or senior status, both within the hālau and through the classes she holds regularly at Hualalai Elderly Housing. It doesn’t matter if someone has never danced and needs extra time and encouragement to learn. Lona has gifts to share and her gifts have the power to change lives.
The halau gives approximately 6-8 performances every year, mostly at the West Hawaii Civic Center stage, for private gatherings, and at the Hualalai Regency, a senior residential facility. Admission is always free of charge.
The regular practices and performances benefit the dancers by increasing their self-confidence and helping maintain physical and mental ability. The audiences—local folks and visitors alike—enjoy the show and come away with a bit more appreciation for the things that make Hawaii special and unique. Hawai‘i Island commerce benefits also by increased foot traffic and patronage to the businesses surrounding the performance venue.
Hawai‘i’s people with intellectual disabilities have been excluded from learning hula simply because no one has been willing to teach them. Lona changed that in 2007 by welcoming Special Olympics athletes into her hālau. This improved the lives of this population, and provided the state’s only integrated setting wherein their non-disabled peers can come to know them as individuals and appreciate their contribution to the halau as fellow hula sisters and brothers.
In Lona’s words:
“Hula is a sacred living art form that thrives because it is continually being shared; passed on from one person to the next. It is the language of aloha and it belongs to all of Hawaii’s people. We should not exclude those who seriously want to learn simply because they might take a little longer to become skilled, or because we think they may never attain certain levels of perfection.”
Everyone who knows her is amazed that Lona never seems to tire or get “burned out.” Why? Because love; the one thing that lasts forever, is behind everything she does.