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Catching a break at Malaekahana, on O‘ahu's windward coast.
Vol. 11, No. 3
June/July 2008

  >>   The Giving Tree
  >>   Green Chic
  >>   Town & Country

Lithe Spirits (Page 2)



I am greeted by the sound of jangling coins, like a poker player enjoying her winnings. Eighteen women stand in rows facing the classroom mirror; around their waists they wear multicolored sarongs laced with fake coins and sequins. On Chang’s command, they crouch to the ground. “One.” They roll their shoulders. “Two.” They begin to lift, shimmy and shake.

They are a diverse lot—from Argentina, Germany, North Carolina, Seattle and Hawai‘i. They are accountants, astronomers, anthropologists, flight attendants and special-education teachers. In practice they look a ragtag ensemble: tall, short, blond, brunette. Other than one lone purple-harem pantsuit straight out of I Dream of Jeannie, they don tights, sweats and shorts. Some have bellies that are flat; others are voluminous. The dancers count through the numbers without music, maintaining an affection that becomes evident at the end of each set, when they break to slap each other on the back, give each other high-fives, gently pat each other’s arms. And to giggle small, self-effacing giggles.

“I just moved here from Arizona, and one of the things that’s so cool is that dance is such a big part of the culture here,” says Beth Biller, an astronomer at the University of Hawai‘i. “It’s based in hula, but it’s all dance. People here really care about it, which is awesome.”