Sharing the Love of Polynesia in ‘Paradise’
By Maria Kanai
At Paradise Cove Luau, the production is more than just a performance — it’s a tribute to Polynesian culture. There’s nothing tacky or kitschy about the evening, because the staff and directors at Paradise Cove Luau put all their efforts into making the production as authentic and respectful as possible.
“It really is like family here,” said Tracie Lopes, entertainment director. Paradise Cove Luau has been offering nightly shows for nearly 40 years, and Lopes herself grew up knowing the luau members. Her own kumu O’Brian Eselu was the former entertainment director at Paradise Cove and Lopes was invited to direct the team after he passed away.
“Like me, there are many people whose parents or aunties used to work here or they are born and raised in Ko Olina and are from this area. They have some sort of genealogical connection, and they’ve invested their lives into Paradise Cove, which is why there is that feeling of home here.”
The luau begins with a lei greeting as visitors are guided onto Ko Olina’s 12 beachfront acres where a variety of Polynesian games and activities take place before the main show begins. There’s plenty to see and do, like ‘o’o ‘ihe (spear-throwing), ‘ulu maika (Hawaiian bowling), canoe riding, lei-making, Polynesian tattoo, hula dance lessons and a coconut tree climbing demonstration. Then there’s a ceremonial hula dance performance for the unearthing of the roasted pig in the imu. During the buffet or table service dinner, the stage comes alive with songs and dances of Polynesia and the show closes with an exciting fire-dancing finale.
“Many people come here to work and they end up staying for a long time,” shared Lopes. “I think that says a lot to our ohana environment — we care for our employees and we help people learn important job skills, especially those who are just starting out.”
She said that many employees who show dedication and improvement after working for the luau are often promoted to a higher paying position. For example, dancers have been promoted to line captain, musicians or to lead role.
When she’s hiring specifically for the entertainment department, Lopes looks for dancers who are confident. “We want dancers who can project not just their voice, but their personality. Anybody can be trained, but they have to come with that confidence first,” explained Lopes. She also is looking for people who have a desire to share and perpetuate their culture.
“We’re trying to give people an experience as authentic and respectful as possible,” said Lopes. “We represent so many different parts of Polynesia, so we want to give each of them due respect.”
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COMPANY: Paradise Cove Luau
LOCATION: 92-1089 Alii Nui Drive, Kapolei
PRESIDENT: Keith Horita
BENEFIT Competitive wages, health, vision and dental insurance, flexible spending, paid leave and holidays, 401(k) profit sharing plan, paid group life insurance and employee purchasing plans
NOTEWORTHY: On Nov. 8 at 9 p.m., Paradise Cove Luau will be holding auditions for female dancers with three or more years of experience in both hula and Polynesian dance performance. Both full- and part-time positions are available. Dancers will perform hula to Hawaiian Hula Eyes, perform a 30-second Tahitian routine and learn and perform a 30-second implement routine. While this audition is only for female dancers, Paradise Cove Luau is also looking for male dancers to join the team. For more information, call 679-0033 or visit paradisecoveluau.com/employment.