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Taetum Lynn Kalani '25

From Linfield Hoodie to Linfield Lu'au

portrait of Taetum

Posted on 05.12.22 by Grace Fjermedal '25 in College of Arts & Science, School of Business

Taetum dancingWhen the lights went down and the music began in a jam-packed Ted Wilson Gymnasium, first-year student Taetum Lynn Kalani '25 was more than ready to dance in Linfield University’s 49th Annual Lu'au and Ho'ike.

You could say that it all began with her grandfather’s Linfield hooded sweatshirt.

“My grandpa actually came to Linfield in the 70s,” Taetum said. “He played football here, and I grew up having his Linfield football hoodie.” The hoodie, like her grandfather, had crossed the Pacific Ocean. Kalani is from Pu’uloa Oahu, the third largest of the Hawai'ian islands.

Choosing a university: it had to have a Hawai'i Club!

“I live 10 minutes from the beach and enjoy being from a state with its own culture,” said Taetum, a journalism and media studies major. “Every time you walk out the door, you learn about the culture. When choosing a school, something that was important to me was making sure that they had a Hawai'i Club, just because I wanted to be able to find people who are from home, and also because there was opportunity for university Lu'au, which are such a huge experience for people from Hawai'i.”

When Taetum saw Instagram videos of Linfield’s Hui o Lōkahi Club (formerly Hawai'i Club) she kicked into gear. Soon she was teaching traditional Hawai'ian dances to fellow Linfield students, as well as participating on the Cheer team.

The hours of practice showed

Performers dancing at the lu'auFor everyone sitting in the audience, the Lu'au was an absorbing performance, with one dance group after another coming on stage, as the music echoed and rumbled through the building. After each dance, the applause and cheers were like loud ocean waves. Obviously, a lot of work went into the production (including the big effort to ring the entire building with cutouts of palm trees.)

“It is super exciting to see the whole production come to life,” Taetum said. “The week before the Lu'au we were practicing every day from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and for months we had been practicing at least weekly.”

A love for sharing her culture

Throughout the practices, Taetum says there was joy in seeing all of the dancers come together and become better and better.

“By teaching dance, I'm teaching people about my culture and what I love to do,” she said. “I've danced for this since I was three years old. I like teaching other people and seeing them learn to love it just as much as I do.”

You don’t have to be Hawaiian

Dancers on stage to performer playing ukulele“The majority of the Hui o Lōkahi Club are students who are from Hawai'i, or maybe grew up on the mainland, but are Hawai'ian,” Taetum said. “But we do have a good handful of students who aren't Hawai'ian or aren't from Hawai'i, and they just wanted to learn about dancing hula. I'm hoping that we get a lot more members next year who are just like that. You don't have to be from Hawai'i. You don't have to be Hawai'ian. There are no requirements to be in the club. I hope more people who are just interested in seeing what it's about join the club because it's really fun and you definitely make a lot of friends.”

Continuing the Tradition

As a first-year student, Taetum is dedicated to continuing the tradition of Lu'au at Linfield, especially with next year being the 50th anniversary of the popular event. It takes an enormous effort from a lot of dedicated students to create the Lu'au. 

“Most of the committee this year are seniors,” she said. “So getting to shadow them and seeing how they run practices and seeing how they plan it will be really beneficial for us next year. We’re always looking for volunteers.”

 To repeat the good news from Taetum: You don’t have to be Hawai'ian to join and “it's really fun and you definitely make a lot of friends.”