Island Rhythm: Dana Montgomery Preserves Polynesian Dance Traditions at Le Polynesia in Lake Forest

Photograph by Mariah Tauger

Dana Montgomery preserves Polynesian dance traditions at Le Polynesia in Lake Forest, a family institution since 1961.

How long have you been dancing?
About 18 years. My (paternal) grandparents were from Kauai and Oahu and opened the original Le Polynesia in Long Beach. Then my parents opened the O.C. location in 2000. I tried hip-hop, ballet, and tap, but I always went back to Polynesian dancing.

What are your responsibilities at the studio?
I teach beginning, intermediate, and advanced classes—everyone from age 3 to 40. I’m in charge of every dance routine when it comes to putting on recitals. I make sure the dances stay authentic for the island we are representing.

What are your classes like?
I try to make them fun and educational. However, we have to remember that we are not only dancing for ourselves but
for a culture. Our main goal is to preserve what my grandparents started.

Your favorite part of teaching?
Seeing my students progress as dancers. I’ve been teaching some of the 13-year-olds for seven years—since I was their age. Some want to “be a hula teacher like Auntie Dana” when they grow up, which is amazing—knowing they have the same passion for the culture as I do.

Do you have a special dancing memory?
Performing with my grandmother, my mom, and my sister during our 50th anniversary ho’ike (exhibition) in 2011. We chose to do my grandmother’s favorite hula dance “Mele Ohana” (love for family). It was one of her last times performing. The entire family was on stage together and felt so much mana (spiritual energy).

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