Pacific Island troupe embraces tradition, family

moot hawaiiFor Joe Ahuna, it’s about one word — “ohana.”

“Ohana means family,” he said. “[We want people] inspired to go home and strengthen their own families.”

Director/founder of the dance troupe Ahuna Ohana from Hawaii that will be performing at this year’s Folkmoot USA, Joe and his family present an array of Hawaiian hula dances, Native Americana hoop dances, as well as movements and songs from Samoa, New Zealand and Tahiti. Onstage, the group aims to share a message of the importance of family, education, and also living a drug-free lifestyle.

“[We want] to inspire everyone to love and strengthen their families by teaching each other the talents of their families, and sharing these talents as a family,” Joe said. “In other words — just do something. Every family is different, but love, respect and forgiveness are common needs in all families, which can be developed by ‘doing something as a family.’ Just do it, do what you need to do to have love in the home.”

Formed in 1983, the Hawaiian group consisted of Joe, his wife Janice, four sons and two daughters. As time rolled along, the children’s spouses joined the family act. These days, the show also includes grandchildren during the hula and Native American hoop dances.

“[We’re] the Hawaiian Von Trapp Family,” Joe said. 

A showcase all their own, Ahuna Ohana aims to combine the unique and sacred cultures of the Pacific Ocean. 

“[We spread] ‘Aloha’ through the the graceful hulas and melodic songs of Hawaii, the fast drumming dances of Tahiti, the exotic dances of New Zealand and the exciting, rhythmic dances of Samoa, including the Samoan fire-knife dance,” Joe said. “We also perform the songs and dances of the American Indians, including the intricate Navajo 22-hoop dance.”

Ahuna Ohana has taken its positive message around the globe, performing from France to Bulgaria, Mexico to Guam, Japan to Hong Kong, Ukraine to Puerto Rico, and seemingly every spot in between. Of all their appearances, the Ahuna family always looks forward to gracing the stage at Folkmoot.

“This is our third performance at Folkmoot. We have performed at many festivals around the world — Folkmoot is one of the best,” Joe said. 

Like Folkmoot, Ahuna Ohana is also celebrating 31 years in 2014. In the midst of a show, Joe still finds himself in awe of not only being able to perform with his family, but also share his passion with the audiences of the world.

“First, I feel blessed to be able to have children who are willing to learn my talents. Second, I feel happy to see my children willingly sharing their talents with others. Third, I feel proud as a parent to see how they have become good men and women through sharing their talents, which we believe is a form of service,” he said.

With the upcoming performance festival on the horizon, Joe and his family look forward to entertaining and educating the people of Folkmoot. Returning to Western North Carolina has become a family reunion of sorts for Ahuna Ohana, where familiar faces once again welcome the group to their home in Southern Appalachia.

“Whenever I hear the James Taylor song ‘Carolina in My Mind,’ I think of the warm and friendly people of Folkmoot,” Joe said. “In our past visits, we’ve made many friends — our friendships continue to this day. The Smoky Mountains are beautiful. Just as Hawaii has its own beauty, Western North Carolina has its own beauty as well.”

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