Students Learn Polynesian Culture through Dance

Five-year-old Cori Lizarraga (left) and her sister, four-year-old Victoria Lizarraga (right), learn how to swing their hips during the Polynesian class Wednesday evening.

IMPERIAL — Dances of the South Pacific have meaning beyond words and are carried along the stories and legends of their culture — a culture that dance instructor Bertha White offers at the Ricochet Center twice a week.

“The idea is to teach my students this enriched culture,” said White. “These dances talk about love and nature. This is a culture my students don’t know, but once they start dancing and hearing the music they fall in love with it.”

Whether the dances describe ancient warriors and goddesses, or everyday life on the islands, each dance recounts a story about the culture of the people from around the South Pacific.

Traditionally, the dances were conceived to thank the gods who aided the islanders, to celebrate good fortune, and to pay respect to the various chiefs. Because there was no written language, Polynesian dance and its accompanying music preserved various stories and rituals of the indigenous people. Consequently, the dancing represented today is as much a celebration of life as it is a proud statement of cultural awareness.

Bertha White has been teaching Polynesian dances for the last eight years.

“I enjoy what I do and it gives me great satisfaction to see my students enjoying themselves as they learn other cultures,” said White. “This also gives my students a good exercising workout.”

Brawley resident Bertha Valdez took her eight-year-old daughter Yasmin Valdez Zamora for her fourth class on Wednesday.

“I really like the class and the instructor is really good,” said Valdez. “It’s definitely worth the drive.”

Classes are open to kids, teens and adults at a cost of $7 per class and are offered at the Ricochet Center, located at 450 West Aten Road, Imperial. Classes are held Mondays and Wednesdays from 6-7:00 p.m.

“I have been bringing my two grand-daughters here for the last four weeks and they love it because they love to dance and swing their hips,” said Coleen Lovecchi, an Imperial resident.

Effective September 6, classes will also be available at the Lion’s Center in Brawley on Tuesdays and Thursdays at a cost of $40 per month.

For additional information, contact Bertha White at (619) 623-2472.