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Dan Lund, for the Deseret News
Heidi Sitake, left, and others dance for a crowd at the Tahitian Noni Conference Center in Provo during the Voice of Polynesia dance school competition.

OREM — Four-year-old Braxton and 5-year-old Colby Silva like the beat and the music.

Twelve-year-old Mele Naulu likes the movement and being in front of an appreciative audience.

Abish Hapairai likes keeping the classic island dances alive. That's why she started the Voice of Polynesia dance school.

At the school, children, teens and adults can learn to dance, drum, play the ukulele and perform in front of people.

"We perform for people, sometimes without asking for money, just to do it," said Naulu. "But we get paid, too."

Naulu has been dancing since she was 6. Her mom is Tongan and taught her how.

"I know every style of Polynesian dance," Naulu said. "Anybody could do it. You just have to put your mind to it, but you have to see it with your own eyes."

The Silva brothers started after their cousins, Kainoa and Leina Carvalho, got involved and urged them to try it.

They had never performed in public before they competed at the Tahitian Noni Conference Center in March.

"I thought my oldest especially might freeze, but they did so well," said Stacy Silva. "It was their first time performing, their first time alone and in competition. I think the audience and the music helped (because the audience was so supportive).

"We are Polynesian, so we're interested in seeing them learn about the culture. Our nephews started, and they were so cute. We thought it was so funny," Silva said.

"We started with the Tahitian program because of demand and also because the majority of owners are from Tahiti, including myself," said Hapairai. "We have about 100 students now at the school all involved in Tahitian dancing, drumming or ukulele playing. We started the Hawaiian program last month with about 10 enrolled so far, but we're trying to grow it."

Sam and Patricia Folau are Samoan, experienced dancers who have performed at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii. They started teaching island dance in their home and currently teach the troupe at Utah Valley State College for the community education program.

"It's kind of a novelty. People seem to like it to spruce up events," Folau said.

At the Voice of Polynesia school, students can attend up to three classes a week for an hour each time, learning dance moves, playing games and socializing with other children with a similar heritage. Young dance students not only learn dance moves but the words and style of island cultures.

Silva said the actual dancing is hard work, similar to a gym workout.

The school holds three recitals a year at the Tahitian Noni auditorium and will perform upon request (call 784-1305).

Hapairai said most of the students are Polynesian, Latino and Caucasian, but everyone is welcome.

"Most have never done Tahitian dancing before but are now looking like sharp dancers," Hapairai said.

But be prepared to invest.

"You have to give your heart to it," Naulu said.

Island dance schools in Utah County area

Siva Polynesia Dance Review in Lehi: 787-7130

Utah Pacific Islander Dance Company in Provo: 607-5092

The Voice of Polynesia in Orem: 784-1305

E-mail: [email protected]