As a transplanted Pacific Islander in Santa Barbara (or anywhere in the contiguous 48), there is a point at which you become an island unto yourself. Sure, there are crossovers from home-the ocean, the sun, the flip-flops-but where there was once a warm and bustling environment consisting mostly of relatives, you now have a small gathering of friends whom you quip with in a fashion similar to Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be a Redneck” skit. (You know you’re an Islander when: “spam is a staple in your diet”; “punctuality means you arrive three hours late to everything”; “every meal is prepared with rice, macaroni salad, or both.”)
And as a Hawaiian brought up in the world of competitive Hula and Tahitian dancing, I find that the absence of all that is island (cue Elvis Presley’s “Drums of the Islands”) prompts the oddest of instinctual behaviors. When I hear the beat of a toere (Tahitian drum) my heart races; the booming of the Maori haka (chant) “Ka Mate” gives me goose bumps; I have dizzying fits of nostalgia remedied only after listening to my entire Hawaiian music catalogue or dancing to a few songs in the privacy of my own home. Thankfully, UCSB’s Polynesian Club, Iaorana Te Otea (which roughly translates into “greetings from the drumbeats”), has a suitable fix for my island withdrawals.
On Saturday, May 31, at 8 p.m., the group will present its annual benefit event titled Island Wishes at Campbell Hall. The show is a fluid performance of the traditional and modern Polynesian dances that have accrued in the group’s repertoire during its 20-year history-all of which are student choreographed. Proceeds from the show will go to benefit Hospice of Santa Barbara, a volunteer organization that works to heal the emotional, social, and spiritual wounds of people with life-threatening illness. Advance tickets, priced at $5, are available by calling 563-8812. Tickets will also be available at the door for $7. What better place to belt out your carefully memorized “Hawai’i Aloha,” a sonic staple of any Polynesian performance, than at an event that kicks off Santa Barbara’s island summer?