The most iconic tradition of Hawaii arrived in Rim Country in early October. Native Hawaiian and new resident Tiana Price opened a school of Hawaiian dance — hula.

Students learn much more than dance moves, Price teaches them the roots of both traditional — Kahiko — and modern — ‘Auana — hula. This includes sharing the stories behind hula and an introduction to the Hawaiian language.

Price grew up in Hawaii, living with her maternal grandparents, who connected her to the culture and family taught her hula.

“As the elders passed away I felt compelled to perpetuate Hawaiian traditions. This is called ‘Kulena’ and it means responsibility,” Price said.

She has a Hawaiian dance school in California where she returns to teach the first part of every week. She has operated it for 10 years and plans eventually to turn it over to her daughter, Leilani.

It is Leilani who brought Price and her husband, Russell, to Arizona. Their daughter is at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff where she is working on a major in speech therapy.

While visiting her, the couple did some exploring and discovered Payson. They fell in love with the area, which Price said is very much like the part of Hawaii she calls home.

“I’m from the town of Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii that’s known for cattle ranches and rodeos. It’s at a higher elevation with mountain roads and a similar lifestyle to Payson. It makes me feel very at home here,” she said.

Using both live and recorded music, which includes traditional chanting and instruments, Price offers her class at the old Lemon Tree Salon, 416 S. Beeline Hwy. (north of the Black & Tan shop and behind Keller Williams).

While classes started in October, students can join at any time. Price teaches all ages, regardless of physical limitations. All classes start with the basics of hula. Right now she has a group of seniors, 50 and older, and a group of toddlers, ages 2 to 4. She said a few families have also expressed interest in classes. Besides the classes currently taking place, Price will have sessions for children, ages 5 to 12; those in high school through age 30; and a class for those 30 to 50.

The classes are from 45 minutes to an hour and are offered Thursday evenings and Saturdays for $55 a month. There is no registration fee and she can also provide a free introductory lesson.

Price said it may seem strange to take hula classes in the fall and winter, but it’s the perfect time to train for performances in the spring and summer. In fact, her school is already scheduled to take part in the Arizona Aloha Festival in March in the Valley.

An award-winning dancer, Price is available to do local performances and outreach at skilled nursing facilities and similar venues.

She calls her schools Ha’lau Hula’O Ka’anohiokala’ and explained the meaning of the name. “Ha’lau” means gathering place. Add Hula’O and it becomes the gathering place for hula. The Ka’anohiokala’ part of the school name, is her family name — her name, her grandmother’s name and her daughter’s name and so represents the past, present and future. It means “rays of the sun,” she said.

Through her school and the lessons she shares, Price hopes to teach how to “Live Aloha,” which is to live with love and compassion and create an environment in which to live in that manner.

To learn more about the nonprofit organization go to www.halauhulaokaanohiokala.com.

Contact the reporter at tmcquerrey@payson.com

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