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Aloha Mai Kaua,
`O wau no `o Maile and I am the youngest child of noted singer songwriter Kuiokalani and Nani Lee. My sisters, brother and I were blessed to have been raised with music in our lives thanks to our parents, aunties, uncles and friends who were part of our young lives.
In the 1950’s and 60’s Waikiki was the place to be and our parents alongside Don Ho, Sterling Mossman and Melveen Leed to name a few were instrumental in bringing change to the local music scene. From Honey’s in Kane`ohe to Duke’s at Waikiki to Kalia Gardens and the infamous Queen’s Surf they played nightly for kama`aina and malihini alike and no matter where they played they were greeted with standing room only audiences.
In 1979, at the age of 14, I began my professional dancing career with Buddy Nalua`I (The Surfers; Clayton and Alan’s younger brother) at the Kona Lagoon Hotel. When the restaurant closed at Kona Lagoon I quickly found myself dancing with my sisters and brother at the Interisland Resorts’ Kona Surf Hotel in Keauhou-Kona. For the next 8 years we did the Lu`au entertainment there until the Lu`au closed and we took a short hiatus as the Hotel changed ownership. During that time Tihati began auditioning for their stage production that was set to open at the Hyatt in Waikoloa. I auditioned and became one of the original 8 female dancers to open the Kamehameha Court Lu`au/Dinner Show in September of 1988.
Shortly after we began at the Hyatt our`Ohana group was called back to the Kona Surf to perform nightly as a Lounge Show. So I split my time between the two companies and kept myself busy. During this time I was able to travel with the Maui Visitors Bureau as part of their promo team and also travel with Tihati’s convention team.
Life was great but as the years went by I felt that something was missing. I began to question some of the reasoning behind some of the dance. I started to delve into the history of our people here in Hawai`i and our roots in other areas of Polynesia. I learned language, I learned history and I even enrolled in college classes to broaden my knowledge of what had become my passion.
But as you already know ‘Passion’ doesn’t always pay the bills. So I continued to work for Tihati Productions and with our Family group all the while pursuing my ‘Passion’. Then in 1995, my son and I became a part of Punana Leo o Kona a Hawaiian Immersion preschool and I knew in an instant that this is where I would find that missing piece. As I began to learn language it was as if a light came on and gave me a new and enlightening perspective on an industry that I had now been part of for nearly 20 years.
For the next 5 years I took advantage of every opportunity that I was given to learn and be a part of any cultural sharing opportunity that presented itself. I surrounded myself with like-minded people and I began to grow within. In those years I was fortunate to travel throughout Polynesia, meet and share with Polynesians living all over the world and learn about my Hawaiian ‘ness’ but also my connection to the po’e of Polynesia.
From the Fairmont Orchid and Mauna Lani Bay Hotel to the Hilton and Marriott in Waikoloa. From the Four Seasons Hualalai to the Royal Kona Resort and Sheraton Keauhou I have had the opportunity to share my ‘Aloha’ with malihini and kama`aina alike.
Now I am makaukau to share the `ike, the knowledge that I have gathered over time. It’s unique in its content, informative and appealing to the new more educated malihini that visits our island.
`O wau no me ka ha`aha`a,
Maile Lee Tavares