Ah Loe Family Brings Polynesian Culture Here
What started out as a fun and upbeat performance for family, friends and church luaus has blossomed into a highlight for library summer reading programs throughout the area, especially at the Fulton County Library where both adults and children enjoy a firsthand glimpse at Polynesian dances and culture.
Under the name “Pacific Rhythm,” Mika and Tiffany (Hartman) Ah Loe of Warfordsburg and their four children, all under the age of 10, transport onlookers to the islands with their vivid, handcrafted costumes and distinct dances representing a variety of locations, such as Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti, New Zealand, Tokelau and Tonga.
A native of Samoa, Mika grew up performing Polynesian dances and would eventually join several cultural clubs while attending Brigham Young University-Hawaii, where he met his wife.
According to the duo, Tiffany was attending the Hawaii campus for a six-week spring term, and they became fast friends. She would return to the BYU-Utah campus, but they continued to e-mail and speak over the phone. Several visits later and the couple became engaged, albeit on two different days because of the time differences.
“We never really dated. It has been 12 years since then, and we’re still going strong,” said Tiffany, who also began learning the basics of island dancing after they were married in 2001 and residing in Hawaii.
The Ah Loes moved back to the “big city” of Warfordsburg in 2003 with their firstborn son, Tavita, soon to be 11 years old. Their family has grown to include 9- year-old Sinalei, 6-year-old Sosefina and 3-year-old Viliamu, who joined the family last Tuesday night at the Fulton County Library for his very first Pacific Rhythm performance.
“When I flew here to meet Tiffany’s family (parents Larry and Carla Hartman) for the first time during Christmas break in 2000, I found out that Warfordsburg is a very small ‘city.’ Warfordsburg is very much like the small village in Samoa where I grew up. The closest house to mine was two miles in each direction. I lived on a farm with cows, chickens and pigs,” Mika said. “I fell in love with Warfordsburg because it reminds me so much of home. The only significant difference is Samoa does not get snow like here. The weather is about 90 degrees all year round. It’s very tropical. Plus, we have electricity and phone here. We used kerosene and coconut oil for fuel at night.”
The Ah Loe family got their start on the performance circuit with some encouragement and promotion from Tiffany’s aunt, a professional storyteller for children’s summer reading programs. In 2011, Pacific Rhythm began performing at libraries and did around 33 shows that summer alone as well as weddings and other special events. This year, the Ah Loes are expected to offer their glimpse of Polynesian culture to attendees at 10 different library programs.
“We love sharing the love we have of the Polynesian culture with others. A lot of people here have heard of Hawaii but not all of the other little islands out there in the Pacific,” stated Tiffany. “It is great to have a side job that you love to do! It has been great for teaching our children at least this aspect of their culture.”
Mika added, “We do this for fun and to make people happy. We now run it as a family business. We realize there is need for cultural diversity around this area. Performing different dances from the Pacific islands brings us together. It does not matter where we come from. We are all brothers, sisters and children of God.”
“We promote the spirit of Aloha – it is the spirit of love and happiness. We love to see people smile. Some of the people we perform for have never seen this kind of entertainment in their lives. One of the main reasons why we perform as a family is to promote wholesome family entertainment and to teach our children about my culture,” he said.
The Ah Loes said their children began showing interest in dance when they were just toddlers. Tavita and Sinalei would try to mimic the dances they observed, while Tiffany said their youngest children “came out dancing.”
“I was dancing up until my due date with them,” she noted. “When Vili was little he would sit in the stroller during performances with my mom, and he would do all the hand motions. They definitely learned young.”
Each family member has a different aspect of Pacific Rhythm they enjoy the most. Tiffany likes to watch the faces of audience members, while Mike loves sharing his culture with others. As the eldest child, Tavita said he likes performing alongside his dad, and while Sinalei loves every minute of it, she especially enjoys performing the Samoan siva. Sosefina likes the costumes, which are specially designed and crafted by Tiffany.
As they continue to rehearse for upcoming shows, the Ah Loes also devote additional time to Tiffany’s fitness class based on Polynesian dancing. Called Hot Hula fitness, the class is a 60- minute low impact workout designed not only to tone your stomach and legs but to burn calories.
Anyone wishing to find out more information regarding Pacific Rhythm can check out their blog at ourpacificrhythm.blogspot.com, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240- 313-5814. Additional information on Hot Hula fitness can be obtained by e-mail at email@example.com.