Performance Honors Polynesian Cultural Center's 50 Years
By Sister Janet Peterson, New York public affairs missionary
NEW YORK CITY
Showcasing the cultures of the Pacific islands, more than a dozen dancers and musicians from the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii, performed in New York City on April 30 and May 1 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the PCC.
Hosted by the United Nations Permanent Missions of Samoa and New Zealand, the PCC troupe entertained 200 international diplomats and guests on the evening of April 30 at a venue across from the U.N. campus. Twenty-one ambassadors representing the countries of Angola, Australia, Botswana, Czech Republic, Fiji, Grenada, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Maldives, Morocco, Mozambique, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Timor L’este, Tonga, Venezuela, and Yemen attended the celebration and luau. Two U.N. under-secretary generals and several department leaders were also present.
Jim McLay, ambassador of New Zealand, welcomed guests and said, “We thank the Polynesian Cultural Center for sharing with us the spirit of aloha and the rich culture of the Pacific.”
Francella Strickland, deputy permanent representative at the Samoan Mission, introduced the PCC performers, telling guests that they represent the Church.
The performers captured the interest of the audience as they did a brief version of the PCC’s “Breath of Life” show, which conveys the values of the Polynesian cultures—cherishing children, paying respect to ancestors, strengthening familial love, and believing in a life hereafter. The performance for the diplomats featured music and dances of several Pacific island countries. The narrator noted that “the Polynesian Cultural Center is a small example of what the United Nations is trying to do—to share cultures with each other.”
In closing, Ambassador McLay invited guests from New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji to sing traditional songs in their native languages in an impromptu encore.
More than 200 international diplomats and guests are entertained by a Polynesian Cultural Center troupe on April 30. Photo by Jason Merrell/JBurd iM.
“The event was a stunning success,” said Francella Strickland. “Everyone I spoke to mentioned that they thoroughly enjoyed the show and they loved the whole Pacific atmosphere with the songs, dances, decorations, and food. They left, I hope, with a better understanding and appreciation of our cultures and our peoples.”
Amele Tarakinikini, a Fijian who has lived in New York for several years, was “excited to come to the show” to mingle with other Fijians and to have a glimpse of her home country.
Marjon Kamara of Liberia commented, “A very interesting show, a view of cultures which I didn’t already know. Without visiting very distant places, you get insight into these cultures.”
A native of Luxembourg, Maite Van Der Veae works for her country’s U.N. permanent mission. She had never seen a show like this and “enjoyed it very much.”
Not only did guests feel the spirit of the evening, so did the performers. Jonathan Cummings, a native of Laie, has danced for the PCC for several years. A returned missionary who served in Tahiti, he said, “Performing for the U.N. made me realize what a small place the world is, how we are all connected and how we truly are brothers and sisters.”
Crystal Hafoka, also of Laie, commented, “For me, performing at the PCC and traveling to other states and countries is like a mission. Through performing, we are not only able to share our culture but, more important, radiate the Spirit and the love of our Heavenly Father.”
The morning of May 1 the PCC group appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America. Since May 1 is Lei Day, an official holiday in Hawaii, leis were distributed to ABC’s personnel and the on-site audience. Though it was a chilly morning, the PCC members danced outside the Times Square studio. Their performance was broadcast to a national audience of more than a million viewers.