Lynnwood students dance to Hawaii’s hula heritage

LYNNWOOD — Hula dancing weaves Hawaiian culture and heritage into a smooth, choreographed dance, says hula instructor Leila Fernandez.

The dance is graceful and loving, Fernandez said, and the rhythm of the Hawaiian language makes it feel like you’re listening to people speak in song.

The songs talk about Hawaii’s land, people and culture, one reason Fernandez wishes more people knew the meaning of the songs.

“Our songs are our heritage,” she said.

Fernandez, who teaches at a Lynnwood dance studio, was a dancer and choreographer on Hawaii where her mother owned a production company on Oahu.

“I feel soulful when I’m dancing and teaching,” she said. “When you dance the beauty has to come from within; you have to project it.”

In fact, Fernandez comes from a family of entertainers. Her stepfather is a musician and her mother and sister are dancers.

Fernandez and her husband moved to the area a year ago for his work. It wasn’t long before Fernandez found an outlet where she could teach.

She loves seeing accomplishment in her students, especially those who come in nervous.

“The steps aren’t that hard, you just need to perfect it,” she said.

Fernandez starts with the basic steps and spends six weeks teaching one song before perfecting the moves. As the weeks go on, students learn other steps, but they go back to the original choreography to review.

“I tune into everyone’s different levels of dancing,” she said.

As for the physical demand of hula, the moves are easy enough for most people to learn, but the dancing takes strength, Fernandez said — most people use muscles in their legs and core they’ve never used before.

“People feel awkward (at first) but once you get it, it clicks and it’s instilled in your body,” she said.

One of her students missed a class and noticed without the exercise, she didn’t have the extra spunk to get through her week, Fernandez said.

Fernandez relies on a combination of hula, yoga and Zumba to get that extra Zen and to have more energy.

“You feel like you can conquer anything,” she said.

Learn to hula

Leila Fernandez teaches traditional Hawaiian hula dance classes on Saturdays at Fusion Dance Center, 6121 176th St. SW, Lynnwood. Students range from 12-year-olds to “Kupunas,” or those in the retired community. The class is open to beginners and advanced dancers.

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