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Wilton Manors residents can now experience a taste of Hawaii thanks to weekly hula classes at the Hagen Park Community Center.

Beginners can shimmy their hips during classes on Monday night while those with a little more experience can dance on Tuesdays. Both classes will be hosted by Kua'aina Pa Hula O Hawaii, South Florida’s School of Hawaiian Dance & Arts, for participants ages 16 and older. The purpose of these classes is to continue and preserve Hawaiian culture. This will be accomplished through both traditional ("Kahiko") and modern ("Auana") styles. In addition, there will be enrichment workshops as well as lessons with Hawaiian language, otherwise known as Olelo Hawai'i.

The instructor of the class is Kona Garcia. “I’ve been dancing my entire life and was taught by great grandmother when I was 3 years old,” said Garcia. So how long would that be? A whopping 26 years, to be exact.

“I originally am from Hawaii and opened groups in California, Texas and now in South Florida,” Garcia said. “It’s a big journey of sharing the Hawaiian culture with people open to learn. They aren’t the only ones learning [laughs]. I learn something every time I teach, too.”

When asked what benefits hula dancing provides, Garcia replied, “You use your entire body. You have to coordinate your feet, your hips, your hands and your eyes when you’re dancing. You use every part of your body. It definitely helps with coordination and grace. It’s a good workout. Everyone is pretty sore after an hour workout… it’s definitely a disciplined art and requires a lot focus and coordination.”

The school’s name Kua'aina Pa Hula O Hawaii translates to “country side hula studio of Hawai’i,” and appropriately so. Founded by Aunty Polita Johnson in Kea’au Hawaii, the popular Hawaiian dance was taught by Johnson for over 50 years in Big Island, O’ahu and Sacramento, California. In September 2012, Kua'aina Pa Hula O Hawaii was created in South Florida and is now directed by Johnson’s great grandson, who is Garcia. The school consists of about 30 members and strives to keep Hawaiian stories, traditions, songs, language and dances alive and well.

Classes are every Monday and Tuesday from 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. at the Hagen Park Community Center, located at 2020 Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors. The costs of classes are $40 a month for four classes or $12 a class. Call 305-771-HULA (4852) for more information.