Mana is the spirit of our people. It is a word used in all of the Polynesian, Melonesian and Micronesian islands. Mana means spirit. Mana means power. It was how the world was made in our creation stories. Sacred places can have mana. People can have mana. Mana can be carried through demonstrations of our culture and felt through dancing.
Koko in the Fijian village at PCC.
Koko grew up in the village of Falelima, on the island of Savai'i in the island nation of Samoa. In 2007 he was honored to receive the title of High Chief from his family. His chiefly name is Aiolupotea. After volunteering in Fiji for two years, Koko obtained a scholarship to study at Brigham Young University Hawaii, studying Political Science. Like most of our dancers, he performed at the Polynesian Culture Center, Hawaii"s #1 paid tourist attraction. After interning on the Hill, Koko relocated to the Washington, DC area and has danced all over the region with various dance groups, including a previous dance group that he started, called Polynesian Connection. In 2010 he started Mana Poynesia with his wife, Heather.
Candace performing with the Promo Team
Candace grew up in American Samoa, and toured with the Siva Maia dance troupe. While studying International Cultural Studies at Brigham Young University Hawaii, she performed with the prestigious Promo Team for the Polynesian Culture Center. She toured all over the United States, Asia, Australia and the Pacific. She played the lead role in the Polynesian Culture Center's new night show, Ha--Breath of Life. If you have visited Hawaii, you may recognize her face from the sides of tour buses, posters and banners. Candace is our group's talented choreographer. Candace and her husband Jay now live in Maryland with their two children.
Lipo performing as a Fire Walker at PCC
PCC's Canoe Show
Lipo grew up in the village of Pangaimotu on the island of Vava'u in Tonga. As a kid, his mother made him and his sister perform at a nearby tourist resort and for the cruise ships to help bring in money for the family. He would often run and hide but his mother always found him.
This paid off because when he later obtained a scholarship to study at BYU Hawaii, he was able to dance at the Polynesian Culture Center and even became a Fire Walker in the Night Show. This is challenging because you not only have to be able to withstand incredible heat, but you also have to be a comedian and get the audience to laugh while doing so. Lipo graduated in Math and now lives out here with his wife and three kids.
Mel, age 6.
Mel, age 14, greeting guests with a lei.
When Melannee was four years old she moved to Kaneohe, Hawaii. She first fell in love with Polynesian dancing when she visited the Polynesian Cultural Center and saw all the beautiful Polynesian dancers. Before she even started hula, Melannee and her neighbor who was several years older than Mel and had studied Hula put on a show for their families. When they danced to the song "Little Grass Shack" the neighbor girl did all the hula dancing and danced around Mel as Mel stood with a cardboard box around her body and a grass skirt on her head to represent "The Little Grass Shack." It was a hit to say the least!
Melannee began taking private hula lessons after school when she was in kindergarten. She learned the basics of traditional Hawaiian hula. She became enchanted with the music, the stories she could tell through her dancing and the beautiful costumes. We got lucky when Melannee moved to Maryland and she started dancing with us. Melannee loves to perform and see the joy in the audience’s eyes when they feel the Aloha spirit!
Polynesians love to sing and dance. We are an auditory people. Our geneology, education, culture, history and jokes are all taught through music and dance.
Our Polynesian ancestors traveled thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean with no compasses and no maps. They are arguably the best navigators and mariners in the world. They used the stars at night and observations in the water and birdlife as their guide.
Our logo is symbolic of both the moon and ocean, and contains tattoo designs from Polynesia.
Heather, age 10.
Heather's ancestors lived in the little village of Nuhaka on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island. As a kid her mother taught her to dance Maori and make poi balls. She studied Education at BYU Hawaii while working at the Polynesian Culture Center and later finished her degree at BYU Utah. She taught school in New Zealand and Oregon for a few years. She danced with a performing Maori group in Utah and studied hula in Oregon at Hula Halau 'Ohana Holo'oko'a. After obtaining her master's in International Education at George Washington University, she married Koko and now has three boys and a girl. She is the chief costume maker for the group.
Touring across America with Candace!
Jay was born in New Zealand and grew up mainly in Australia. He studied at BYU Hawaii and danced in the Night Show at the Polynesian Culture Center as well as for the Promo Team. After he met and married Candace, they had the opportunity to perform and tour together all over Hawaii, the Pacific, Asia and the mainland United States. Twice they toured cross country in a luxury tour bus at exciting venues.
Jay came close to losing his job a few times at the Polynesian Culture Center due to his occasional shenanigans on stage. Once, in the middle of the Night Show (with around 2,700 people in attendance) he noticed that Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu, who is Samoan, was in the audience. Before Jay went on stage to perform for the Fijian section he had a buddy paint “43” across his back and on his face. Soon, many of the other dancers started doing the same thing throughout the performance. Jay almost got canned, but Polamalu amd his wife's excited reaction were priceless. Jay graduated with a degree in Exercise and Sports Science, with an emphasis in Coaching.
Kanela performing as an adult.
Kanela, age twelve.
Kanela is from Maryland and grew up dancing for her grandparents' performing group, Atogi's Royal Polynesians. For decades (nearly 50 years!) it was the primary Polynesian entertainment group for the entire DC area. Kanela was referred to as her Samoan grandfather’s "blonde granddaughter." In their older years, Kanela took over the family business and performed with her large dance troupe all over the region.
Kanela took a few years off from dancing to spend more time with her young family and Mana Polynesia is very excited to be dancing with her again. Kanela lives in Maryland with her husband and three children.
Dancing Collegiate in Idaho.
Ashley lived in the Bay Area of California as a young girl and started dancing Tahitian at age five. The first time she walked into class she immediately fell in love with the music and the beats. Her classes had live music and after she went home her dad would sing the songs and drum the beats on the table to help her practice. Those memories stuck with her when at age ten her family moved to Florida.
When she eventually started university at BYU-Idaho Ashley joined Collegiate and did large performances representing Polynesian culture and her university. She ended up minoring in Dance and is proficient in ballet (which she started as a young girl too!), ballroom, Polynesian, and Indian dance. After obtaining her degree in Political Science she and her husband moved out here to DC. We were so happy when a mutual friend connected Ashley to our group last year. Like Mel, she has some sort of catnip when it comes to children—they love her!
Click on pictures below to see more pictures from our past!
Click on pictures to see more!
Pictures of our dancers before they came to Mana Polynesia
Fire walking for PCC Night Show
Luau along the Potomac at Mt. Vernon.
Maori performance in Utah
Candace dancing Tongan
Dancing Tahitian with PCC Promo team
Lipo in finale
Mel, age 5
Isn't she the cutest ever???
Candace and Jay
Performing Tahitian together in Asia
Siva in Asia
Candace & Jay
Making a television appearance while on tour
Performing Maori group, Utah.
Candace & Jay's eldest, and one of our rising stars, visiting the Maori Marae
PCC Ha--Breath of Life Tahitian section
Promo team dancing Maori on tour
Tonga, Ha--Breath of Life show at PCC
Candace's picture is EVERYWHERE all over Hawaii--banners, posters, buses, etc.
Lipo dancing in the Canoe Show
Dancing lead in Ha--Breath of Life
Dancing for BYU Hawaii's Culture Night
Candace & Jay
Ha--Breath of Life Promo version on tour, Christmas
Tonga, Ha Breath of Life
Ha--Breath of Life