Peace. Love. Mana.


It’s been a while since I’ve did one of these, so I thought I’d bring it back.  If you’ve been keeping up with the current season of So You Think You Can Dance, then you must have caught my girl Tiana, director of the accomplished Nonosina dance group.   If you missed it, check it.

She’s a beast in the dance studio, an amazing choreographer, and KILLS on the drums.  She’s one of the only people who I can have a 2 hour long music conversation with (Old school hip hop JUNKIE) and she enlightens my life like no other.  Let’s take a stroll thru a day in the life of one of my favorite girls.  (And who said music majors couldn’t write?)

p.s. i wasn’t lying when i said she beasted these drums!

10:33am. The Entrance. My lower back aches, voice is half gone & I can only stretch the high arches of my feet toes first. I’m physically, mentally & spiritually drained…and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The Transition. I make my way to the bathroom to take a shower (way too tired from last night’s rehearsal…it had to wait). I put on a play list that sets the tone for my day. Brushing my teeth double time the quarter notes of whatever song “shuffle” chooses, I start to move my body & groove. My day begins.

11:15am. The solo. I’m not much of a morning person. In need of coffee. With baggy pro-club sweats & a cut up Crooks shirt I sip and log on. The Mac automatically logs on skype just in case family from back home want to talk stories. You Tube has new Shaun Evaristo clips! I click and get inspired to choreograph to music differently, hearing all the little “hits” and “accents” that I wouldn’t have before. I get frustrated that I never heard it before hand; i am a musician before a dancer. Now to Nonosina clips; I can’t stand watching them because I only see our errors & crooked lines. Guess you can say that I am my hardest critic. My mind starts to choreograph.

12pm. The Duet. I miss being a student. A couple hours to bug out. I should be listening to some Temaeva, Heikura Nui or Emma Mariteragi…M.I.A? Far from what I need, perfect! “Light match, Strike fire! Who’s that girl called Maya?” Letting the music create lines & transitions, I groove. The choreography is in process. Do any other choreographers in my field work like this? The music and movement don’t match necessarily, and I like it! I should be using Tahitian drumming, ideally. Hours pass, I make routines, I love them, I hate them, I am right back where I started; just me & the music. The Duet.

4pm. The instrumental. I hope there isn’t any traffic on the 91 from south bay of L.A. to Orange County. 40 minute drive, monster (green…check), m. lights (check), iTouch (check) & gas (FML but check), I am ready. This is where it all comes together, in the car. The soundtrack of my life bumps & the dance creates itself in my beautiful mess of a mind. The drive is a daily ritual & all too familiar. I have hard shoes to fill. As I take Beach Blvd. off the 91, I roll down my window and take deep breathes of So Cal air (with a hint of smog). It’s home, to me.

5pm. The bridge. The kids all practice the routines in the window from last week’s rehearsal. When I pull up, they all run to my truck with their dope kicks that resemble the ones I wore last week. They have orange pareo’s (Polynesian sarongs) long hair & the hugest eyes ready to learn. The early birds anxious to get in the studio follow me to unlock the door. I open the doors & they race to the sign in sheet just to write their attendance. I plug in the iTouch and play some traditional Tahitian drumming and they freestyle in the mirror, class hasn’t even begun. I wait five minutes for those in traffic or the ones on “island time” and warm the kids up. As I bump some Major Lazer the kids try to lowkey bust the latest dance crazes they learn at public school recess. While i’m explaining the dances & the theme for our next show, I wonder if any of this is even processing in their minds. This kids range from 4-9 years old, I got to make it fun & educational since I have A.D.D. myself. We laugh, we dance and we learn. While i start explaining various myths, tales & legends of ancient Polynesia, I see the wide- eyed kids sitting legs crossed with their elbows on their knees and tuning in to ever word I say. My grandma sits proudly as she watches me teach the same way she taught her grandchildren. I never knew much about the Grimm’s brothers but I could tell you every Samoan, Hawaiian & Tahitian legend told to kids back “home”. My grandma was my mother Goose.

7pm. The hook. Dancers start to line up with black pareo’s with hopes to escape life’s trials & tribulations. As I lead stretches a million things and people rush through my mind. I remember my grandma migrating to the states with the clothes on her back and not speaking a word of English. I remember the day my father was granted citizenship in 1986 and it was then I knew that my family sacrificed everything they had for me. As I lead the stretches, I look at all 75 dancers and I wonder what their stories are. I get a couple minutes into stretches and look over at my mom in the office and my grandmother on the computer and know, that I come from a legacy of culture keepers. As my father works his restaurant a couple units over, and my brother teaches his dance group in Japan, and I think about my nephew in Tahiti I dig within and take pride in the art form that my ancestors created. It was through the art music, song, chant, dance and tatau (tattoo) that Polynesians would utilize as ways of story-telling, keeping family lineage, and paying homage to deities. Music and dance pre-dated a written alphabet & was an integral role in our culture. As I finish the stretches, I start to teach choreography. Blood rushes through my veins and I loose myself in the music. This is the best feeling ever, nothing compares.

12am. The outro. After talking stories in the back parking lot of the studio, and bidding each other farewell with a kiss on the check, I breathe. I am grateful to have all walks of life support my dance company and just simply believe in me as the artistic director. I wonder if my grandmother ever imagined that what she once started in her garage teaching a couple of “haole” moms to hula & Tahitian dance would turn into the largest Polynesian dance company in the states. Again, I have hard shoes to fill. I hope I have made my ancestors and loved ones proud. I am the fourth generation of artists. American by citizenship Polynesian by blood. Los Angeles is my home.


Check her out and show some love y’all.   Tee, I fucking LOVE you.  See you sooner than later…. =)

p.s. YES HOMO.

p.p.s.  Peep Tee on the guitar, jammin’ with my homegirl since preschool!  STEPHmadrinan. 


  1. yoshi · September 16, 2010

    whoa – they did pretty damn good for not having much time to learn tahitian

  2. camille · September 17, 2010

    UH, no kidding… your girl murders those drums. thanks to you, i’ve been youtubing tahitian drums all night…

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