Sally Moanikeala Wood Naluai, or Aunty Sally, as everyone
called her, served as the Polynesian Cultural Center's kumu
hula or hula master from its opening in October 1963 until
she retired in 1980, after which she became a hula consultant
until she passed away in January 2000.
Aunty Sally, who was a student of the famed kumu hula Lokalia
Montgomery, taught several generations of young Polynesians
both the kahiko or ancient and auana or modern
styles of hula during her years at the Cultural Center. Ironically,
though hula was anciently only performed by men, Aunty Sally's
work with the young male hula dancers at the Polynesian Cultural
Center became part of what is now recognized as a renaissance
of Hawaiian culture — one in which both male and female
dancers in Hawaii and around the world now participate. For
example, there are thriving halau hula (hula schools)
in Mexico and Japan.
Among Aunty Sally's early female students were
two of her own nieces who would go on to play key roles in the Moanikeala Hula
Festival: Victoria "Sunday
Kekuaokalani Mariteragi and her younger sister, Ellen Gay Kekuaokalani
Aunty Sally asked Mariteragi, who was already a skilled dancer
while still in high school, to join the brand-new Polynesian Cultural
Center dance troupe in 1963. At Aunty Sally's urging, in 1981 Mariteragi
formed her own halau
hula or dance school, which started practicing in the afternoons
at the Center in 1983, and immediately became a popular cultural
Mariteragi is largely responsible for starting the Moanikeala
Hula Festival to honor her aunt. Her school continues
to practice at the Polynesian Cultural Center several afternoons
each week, and many of her graduated students have gone on to
become PCC dancers.
Sunday Girl's sister, Ellen Gay, who also danced at the PCC when
she was a student at BYU-Hawaii, is today a senior Polynesian Cultural
Center manager who oversees the production of the Moanaikeala Hula
Festival and supervises the PCC promo team, who have performed all over the world.
Originally, the Moanikeala Hula Festival was a competition for
children, with cash prizes. More recently it has evolved into
what the Hawaiians call a ho'ike or exhibition of hula
mastery that now also includes adult dancers.