There is nothing like watching a Polynesian dance performance. Dancers in colorful and elaborate costumes undulate their hips and gracefully sway their arms while musicians play a propulsively rhythmic beat. It creates an almost hypnotic effect that draws you in and leaves you breathless. Dance as storytelling has been an integral part of Polynesian culture for years and years, and it is a tradition that is honored and taught at Hiva Katoa Polynesian Dance Studio.

Keeping these meaningful traditions alive at the dance studio located at Grossmont Center, students of all ages and experience levels take classes to learn more about this very distinctive art form. Hiva Katoa is run by Jeannie and Noa Napoleon. The husband and wife each come from families with strong ties to Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and Tokelau. Their families believed it was important to share and preserve the islands’ culture through performances and teaching classes. The Napoleons honor their legacy at Hava Katoa.

“We cherish our Polynesian heritage,” Noa says. “We want to share that love with others and preserve these traditions through song, dance, and storytelling. Our classes and performances are exciting ways to access and learn more about the culture.”

Students in Hiva Katoa classes get intensive instruction on dance steps, of course, as well as what particular types of dances and music actually mean. As students grow in their knowledge of Polynesian dance and culture, they can progress through advanced classes and get performance opportunities with the school at competitions and other events throughout California, such as the San Diego County Fair—some students have even had the chance to travel to Tahiti and dance there!

Classes are lively with a real sense of exuberance and held in a safe environment. The instructors and other staff members have a real commitment to creating a fun atmosphere while also growing students in their dance skills and knowledge of the Polynesian culture. These instructors are also extremely talented, as evidenced in their drumming and choreography.

Hiva Katoa’s leadership is committed to providing students with a quality educational and cultural experience. Their commitment to students creates an atmosphere that feels like Ohana—or, in other words, family. Class instructors are terrifically talented and have high standards of excellence that are passed down to students.

You cannot have Polynesian dance without music! The music director ensures that his students are trained to be, as one attendee says, the heart of the group. The musicians accompany dancers during class, and even during the set-up window between sessions, to set the mood.

In addition to classes, Hiva Katoa offers workshops with guest artists. These are wonderful opportunities for genuine interaction with people who are highly esteemed in the field. These rich learning opportunities are not to be missed by students!

It is rare for a mall to host a dance studio, but Grossmont Center is more than a mall. With our dynamic collection of “Shop Local” businesses, restaurants, and service providers, the Center offers customers a unique experience that cannot be found elsewhere.

When you buy local, it introduces you to businesspeople who are passionate about what they do and how they can best serve the community. The Napoleons want Hiva Katoa to be the premier Polynesian dance studio in San Diego, and they do that by providing an unparalleled range of classes and superior customer service. This kind of effort at small businesses gives you, the consumer, a wonderful array of options for shopping local.

Local stores and restaurants also bolster the community in another important way. When a small business opens, it can create more local jobs, partner with vendors who work in the area and help generate sales tax revenue that goes to the city of La Mesa to fund municipal projects. When entrepreneurs see a community that supports buy-local efforts and is home to a successful small business, they want to open up shop there, too. All of this creates a cumulative effect, and suddenly a neighborhood becomes known for its unique shopping and dining options—and that draws customers. Shopping local enriches a community, both literally and figuratively.

In this case, our vibrant local culture includes a slice of Polynesian culture. Hiva Katoa Polynesian Dance Studio continues to tell the stories passed down by ancestors and shares them with new generations. It’s an experience you can only get when you shop—and dance—local!

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