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Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Taimane Takes Students Beyond Your Grandma's Luau
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Norm Munoz, a Tahitian and Polynesian dancer now living in New York is also an actor and circus clown.
 
Saturday, February 1, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

The girl from Hawaii got to try snowboarding at Dollar Mountain.

And 300-plus students from Pioneer Montessori, Sage School, Sun Valley Community School and other schools learned a little Hawaiian lingo, everything they wanted to know about the ukulele and about  evolution of the hula dance as Taimane presented a concert for students at the Argyros Center for the Performing Arts this week.

“Hawaii is a lot lower than Dollar Mountain so I have to stop and catch my breath!” Taimane Gardner told the students.

 
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Taimane mesmerized Sun Valley-area students with her performance.
 

Taimane, a 30-year-old ukulele virtuoso, performed on behalf of the Sun Valley Museum of Art, which takes many of the performers in its winter concert series into the classrooms to inspire and educate.

“It’s a lot of hard work to be a performer,” the museum’s director of performing arts Kristine Bretall told the students. “And these guys have been out for a while—in Germany, on the East Coast—so I’m so thrilled they have honored us by coming to Idaho.”

A quick show of hands showed that most of the kids had been to Hawaii, including Taimane’s hometown of Honolulu. A couple dozen even indicated they played the ukulele.

But chances are they had never seen the ukulele played like Taimane played it.

 
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Norm Munoz dances the Haka.
 

The barefoot performer started off with Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” arching her back and alternately lunging across the stage and anchoring her foot as if she never wanted to release it in an athletic performance.

She moved through a wide range of familiar songs, including the “Habanera” from Carmen, during which she let her arm dance through the air with a graceful flourish.

A little bit rock, a little bit classical, a little bit flamenco. And all ukulele.

Then, a twinkle in her eye, she flailed at the strings with such machine gun-like speed that one of the students would ask later whether she got blisters on her fingers.

The ukulele did not actually originate in Hawaii as so many assume, Taimane said of her ukulele, which looked like a tiny guitar. Instead, it was introduced to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants.

It has, however, become most commonly associated with music from Hawaii where its name translates as “jumping flea,” because of the movement of the player’s fingers, she added. Hawaii’s King Kalakaua promoted the instrument, by incorporating it into performances at royal gatherings.

While Argentina’s Ramiro Marziani matched Taimane on classical guitar, Jonathan Heraux played a cajon—a beat box that originated in Peru.

“It’s pretty much a box,” he told the students as he showed how he could elicit bass sounds from slapping it on one corner and higher notes by hitting another corner.

“I love playing this instrument because I can sit down. And I can put stuff in the box,” he added, showing a hole on one side. “It’s very cheap, as well—just $100.”

And then there was Norm Munoz, a Polynesian dancer who very much wowed the students with his vigorous foot-pounding dances, much of which he performed from a squatting position.

Munoz’s dances were not your grandmother’s hula dance. Students seemed especially taken by the Haka, a warlike New Zealand Maori dance utilizing grunts and facial contortions played out by rugby players to intimidate their opponents.

Taimane, whose name means “diamond” in Samoan, told the students that she started playing the ukulele when she was 5. She started competing in contests, secure in the knowledge that she felt more comfortable on stage than off. She got her big break when the legendary Don Ho saw her and asked her to perform on his show.

“If you want to be a professional musician, a professional chef, a CEO, you’ve got to have that work ethic,” she said. “The most important thing is practice, practice, practice, practice.”

Sophia Exline, a student at Pioneer Montessori School, said that she enjoyed getting to see professional musicians.

“I really enjoyed the classical part,’ she said.

 

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