<b>WORK IN PROGRESS | </b>Herald staff
Leila Fernandez, a Hawaiian choreographer and dancer, recently consolidated her Lynnwood studio with her classes in Bellevue at Seattle Hula Productions. “By doing this the dancers are more acquainted with one another which means a more unified group,” she said.
Q: How, or why, did you decide to work for or open your current job?
A: I opened my own business because I believe I offer something unique, which is hula and Tahitian. Teaching hula is my passion and I love what I do. I was a choreographer in Hawaii and when I came here I realized there was a lack of hula studios on the eastside.
Q: What convinced you that this was the job for you?
A: I’ve never considered hula a job. It just happened. My mother owned a production company and therefore I followed in her footsteps with no regrets.
Q: What does it take to blend your passion with your livelihood?
A: It takes no blending. I am Hawaiian and hula is a part of my culture and my life. In Hawaii, Hawaiians learn either hula, ukulele, Hawaiian music or the native language. Although I enjoy living in Washington I try very hard to keep my Hawaiian culture in my home and family. We started teaching our 2-year-old son some Hawaiian words, not much but a couple of words like pau, which means finish. We hope to teach him the ukulele and my husband is practicing his oli, Hawaiian chants.
Q: What are the crucial elements for success for your business?
A: The crucial elements in being successful is being true to myself, true to others, to properly teach the correct way of hula. Hula is all about respect. We must respect the culture, the language, the students and their space. Another crucial element to success is teaching my students to perform and dance as one accord.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge and how did you meet it?
A: My biggest challenge was teaching hula in a place where I did not know anyone. I moved here (to Mercer Island from Oahu) in October 2010 and started Seattle Hula Productions in February 2011. I’m proud to say we are celebrating our one year anniversary. My first keiki (kids/youth) class started with four keikis. Kae and Miri are sisters from Japan. They knew no English and I was challenged to dig deep into my roots and remember Japanese. My other two students were Kenzi and Julia. Their parents are from Hawaii and have not been taught hula before. I am proud to say that we now have a keiki line of 22 and a wahine line of 20.
Q: How did your friends and family react when you told them you were getting into this business?
A: My friends and family were so happy for me to start Seattle Hula Productions. They thought it was a great idea and they knew it would be successful.
Q: What personal abilities do you think are needed to excel in your line of work?
A: Patience, leadership, organization, creativity and innovation are the personal abilities that are needed to excel in my line of work as a choreographer, teacher and dancer.
Q: When you’re not working, how do you enjoy spending your time?
A: The most important thing in my life is my ohana (family) and God. It makes me most happy when I’m able to spend time with my husband, Fred, my son Alaka’i (Kealaka’iokalani means “the leader of heaven”), and my sister Malie. We love spending time being tourists and finding new places to visit here in Washington, Oregon and Canada. I also love riding horses. In Hawaii, I had an Andalusian and I would ride at least three times a week. I hope to be able to ride again. Let’s not forget the beach – yes, that was wonderful, but I’m finding the lakes here are just as rewarding.
Seattle Hula Productions
WHERE: 12015 NE Eighth St., Bellevue