Beauty and traditions of Hawaii signal the arrival of the holidays on Sunday, Dec. 21, with a full array of Island-themed festivities culminating in a dance and music concert with five award-winning halau dance companies and ukulele masters at the Aratani Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.
Presented by the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC), “Soon It Will Be Christmas – Aloha Kalikimaka” will commence with a pre-concert outdoor event open to everyone starting at 2 p.m. and highlighted by live entertainment, complimentary beverages, and the arrival of Little Tokyo’s Shogun Santa.
At 3 p.m., the curtain goes up in the Aratani Theatre, and concert ticket-holders will be musically transported to the Islands.
From JACCC’s resident ukulele club, U-Space, professional musicians and educators Jason Arimoto and Brad Ranola will demonstrate their virtuosity. The two have performed with six-time Grammy Award-winner Daniel Ho and as an ukulele-percussion duo throughout Southern California. Both were invited to teach at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as part of the Music Center of Los Angeles Active Arts Program.
Originally from Hawaii, Arimoto (ukulele/vocals) gained fame on YouTube for his “facemeltingukulele,” one of Jake Shimabukuro’s top picks. He is a featured artist on award-winning albums and a two-time winner of the Ukulele Underground Award for Best Vocal Performance of the Year.
Ranola (percussion) has worked worldwide as a professional musician since 1997. Steeped in the tradition of classical percussion, his playing also employs elements of Cuban, Brazilian, and West African music. He has shared the stage with such jazz greats as Faye Carol and the late Louie Bellson as well as Latin Jazz All-Star Pete Escovedo. He currently resides in Ventura and is endorsed by DW Drums, GonBops Percussion, and Istanbul Agop Cymbals.
Also performing will be Steve Billman, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, who has studied with Jeff Berlin and Bob Magnusson at the Musician’s Institute and played alongside some of the world’s top musicians. Billman was a member of the band Continuum for 15 years and currently teaches private lessons in jazz and rhythm studies.
The following halau groups will be participating in the hula spectacular:
- Halau Keali’i O Nalani. Founded in 1991, this group has grown through word of mouth to 200 students of all ages and skill levels. The director is Kumu Hula Keali’i Ceballos, who was introduced to the art by his mother, Cissylani Ceballos, and studied under renowned hula exponents Robert Cazimero, O’Brien Eselu, Leina’ala Kalama, George Naope, and Kawaikapuokalani Hewitt. The group has performed at the Hollywood Bowl and the Getty Center, and with the L.A. Philharmonic.
- Halau Kaulana Ka Hale Kula O Na Pua O Ka ‘Aina. Created by Kumu Randy Kaulana Chang in 1999, this Torrance-based group is part of the Kumu Hula Association and has taken part in major events such as the Merrie Monarch on the Big island of Hawaii and the E Hula Mau, Southern California’s largest hula competition. The group has also performed with Hawaiian music stars Makaha Sons and Kanilau and keeps the Island culture alive through formal lectures and workshops. Group members are taught to make their own leis and performance attire.
- Halau Hula a Kawika Laua O Leinani. From Diamond Bar comes a Polynesian dance troupe that performs songs and dances from Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand and Tonga. This professional group has been entertaining audiences for 15 years and is guided by Kumu Kawika and Leinani Viloria. Recently, they were featured during a marketing tour throughout Southern California and Europe for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. The troupe also performed in He Inoa no Kalakaua, the first-ever collaboration of the Kumu Hula Association.
- Halau Hula Na Meakanu O Laka O Hawaii. Kumu Rolanda Mohala Reese established this troupe in Torrance to preserve the Hawaiian cultural heritage by providing formal training in two styles of hula — kahiko (ancient form) and auana (modern style) — as well as traditional Hawaiian dance, chants, music, language, history, values and customs, arts and crafts, and protocol. The organization is currently based in Los Alamitos.
- Aloha Hula Dance Studio. Lyn-Del Laua’e Pedersen, a professional dancer for more than 20 years, is the director and head instructor of this Granada Hills-based studio. Skilled in Tahitian and Hawaiian style, Pedersen teaches different steps and techniques into the choreography, but she also incorporates traditional basics into training. Her husband and all of five of her children either dance or play music as part of the troupe.
King’s Hawaiian Bakery, Dr. Pepper/Snapple Bottling Corp., and Little Tokyo Business Improvement District are sponsors of the hula spectacular.
Pre-concert activities, including entertainment and beverages, are offered free of charge in JACCC Plaza, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo. Tickets to the main show are $28 and $22 general admission, $25 and $19 for JACCC members, and $20 and $18 for groups of 10 or more.
To order tickets, call (213) 620-3700 or visit www.jaccc.org.