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The Hula Connection and Dana Point-based owner Lianne Nahina Pfister work to enhance students’ lives, improve communication skills
By Evan Da Silva
The aloha spirit is alive and well at Lainani Hula Hui’ana, or The Hula Connection.
Lianne Nahina Pfister of Dana Point, the kumu (hula master) of her halau (school), said she has seen the island dance and culture improve health and overall lifestyle of her students across all ages.
“I’ve seen hula impact a lot of families and make the family unity stronger,” Pfister said. “In addition to that, many of my students said they’ve developed six-packs. They do the Tahitian (dance) and have to focus on isometrics. It’s really helped them health-wise, spiritually, mentally and physically.”
Pfister is also a registered speech pathologist with St. Joseph Hospital and works extensively with individuals who have social and communication disabilities such as autism. In addition to her everyday students, The Hula Connection caters to children, teens and adults who face these challenges.
Using hula, as what she describes as a type of sign language, Pfister has seen the confidence, speech and communication skills of these individuals improve considerably.
“We work on body awareness,” Pfister said. “The parents have said it has helped their children focus in school, remember things better and (improve) in math class because we work a lot on timing. Parents have told me their kids have become more confident with themselves and that it has helped them with friendships. Here, they have something in common with children who have and don’t have disabilities.”
Pfister’s son, Blake, has been a beneficiary of the school as well, learning a number of musical instruments while building stronger communication skills and becoming president of San Clemente High School’s Hawaiian Club.
Recently, Blake and other students of The Hula Connection were featured in a documentary short, Hula is My Language. The film follows the lives of Pfister, her son and others while revealing a glimpse of how the school assists children with special needs. Produced by executive producer Liza B. Krassner, Joey Travolta and Pfister, the documentary has won a number of film festival awards across the mainland and Hawaii. A majority of the film crew used were individuals diagnosed with disorders falling in the autism spectrum.
“I’m pleasantly surprised that this film has gotten the recognition it has,” Krassner said. “What this means to me is that it’s OK to make films like this; it’s OK to show people the way they are. It’s OK to show special needs in another light.”
The Hula Connection, this week is in the process of moving from their current location in the Estrella Plaza shopping center (the former Kmart/Sears center on Camino De Estrella at the San Clemente/Capistrano Beach border) across the street to a larger location at 3551 Camino Mira Costa, suites I and J. The new space will accommodate more students and larger classes, a prospect Pfister said she is very excited about. There, she and her school will continue on its mission to share the spirit of aloha with Southern California residents, hoping to serve a new, larger and more diverse variety of students.
“I’m able to take my knowledge from my profession and apply it to the hula,” Pfister said. “I use my classes to teach about the culture, the language and the concepts instead of just teaching the dance. I’m able to accommodate people from all walks of life and cultures.”
For more information about The Hula Connection, find them on Facebook, YouTube or visit www.hulaconnection.org.