Polynesian Spectacular scheduled for Saturday
Kealii Thompson began her school of dance after a talent show at Central Mall featuring a 3-year-old girl.
"I was working at the mall then, and a little girl got up and did her version of the hula," Thompson said. "I got mad, because that was not the hula and I called my mom in Hawaii. She told me if I didn't like the way hula was being represented, then I should show people what real hula looked like. That's what I did."
The fruit of her labors will be evident Saturday when Kealii's School of Polynesian Dance holds its 30th Polynesian Spectacular at McMahon Memorial Auditorium.
"There are 30 songs in this particular show, so that means that there are 30 costume changes," she said. "This is a large show and we hope the people who attend will enjoy the show and come away with some knowledge of Polynesian life."
Thompson began hula dancing at the age of 3 and has been in Oklahoma since 1980, when she married a man whose relatives were retired from the Army.
"I like it here because it's so completely opposite from what I'm used to," she said. "It's what you make of it."
She opened Kealii's School of Polynesian Dance 30 years ago in her garage.
"I wanted to teach children and adults what Polynesian dance really was," Thompson said. "I have had between 2,500 and 3,000 students in my school over the past 30 years and two of my students became Miss Lawton.
"It's just not about dancing at my school. The girls have to know how to sew their costumes and make them look authentic. We get our material from Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand. Materials include cloth, shells and decorations. They are all authentic and they are all modest costumes. I want our shows to be family-friendly events."
Kealii began in her garage, moved to Elmer Thomas Park, and is now headquartered at BrookRidge Retirement Community.
"To be there at BrookRidge is a way to give back to the community," she said. "We always give back to the community and we have performed many shows, including the grand opening at a theater in town, the Movie in the Park, and 30 years experience in performing at the International Festival. We have also traveled to California, Kansas, and Wyoming.