Polynesian dancer brings the aloha spirit to campus


Photo courtesy of Bon San Diego

Junior Bon San Diego poses with sister Keola San Diego in their traditional Polynesian dance costumes.

Christian Blandin, Staff Writer

If a person were to say the word “dance,” the majority of people would likely think of ballet, ballroom and breakdancing or if you are lucky one might find themselves in the midst of a flash mob. For junior Bon San Diego, if someone were to say the word “dance” he would think of grass skirts, shouting chants and spinning fire. Not your typical Irvine-esque word association, huh? Well, that is because San Diego is a rare breed of dancer in this neck of the woods – a Polynesian dancer.

“Poly dancing is a way to express your background and show what you are interested in,” San Diego stated. “I wanted to try something new and I wanted to learn more about my islander background.”

The Filipino, Guamanian and Japanese ethnically-mixed student started practicing this form of dance about two years ago around age 15. He was drawn into Polynesian dancing when his younger sister began attending Le Polynesia Cultural Performing Arts Center in Lake Forest, otherwise known as “Le Poly.” He watched as his sister practiced with others at the studio and soon decided that he too wanted to partake in the experience.

“At first I thought it was weird because I thought they were going to make us dance together as brother and sister, but they didn’t, and I was relieved because that would have been embarrassing,” sister Keola San Diego said. “But in the end it’s actually pretty cool to be dancing with [him].”

Arguably the most entertaining style of Polynesian dancing is fire knife dancing. This kind of dance is a Samoan ceremonial dance; it is originally composed of a machete wrapped in enflamed cloth and is typically seen in movies set in Hawaii.

“I like the adrenaline and the fact that I am able to manipulate fire,” San Diego said. “It’s something different since not very many people do it.”

Of course, anything involving fire opens the door for accidents that would get any mother worried.

“I get excited because it’s fun to watch and see what [he is] going to do with the fire and being able to see [his] joy while [he] is doing it,” mother Marchelle San Diego said. “I’m also nervous because I don’t want [him] to drop it and burn [himself].”

Ultimately, the entire family enjoys his involvement in Polynesian dancing as he gets to stay active, and they all learn about their culture in a friendly environment.

“Dancing with Le Poly has influenced me to try new things,” San Diego said. “I plan on continuing to stick with my family at Le Poly to create more memories with a talented group of people and hone my skills in Polynesian dancing. We all like to hang out; we go on midnight boba runs, watch movies at each other’s houses and, my favorite, and go to the beach to have bonfires.”