On stage and in the studio, the couple behind Jefferson Park’s Hōkūle’a Academy of Polynesian Arts tells their love story through dance.
“I love seeing him do what he loves to do. So I really love when he dances and we dance together,” Mexico native Ale Gabino said of her husband, Chicago native David Acevedo. .
Both Gabino and Acevedo are longtime dancers. After meeting at a 2003 Polynesian dance competition in Hilo, Hawaii, they married in 2009. A year later, they opened Hōkūle’a Academy of Polynesian Arts, where together they teach their other great passion: Polynesian culture and dance.
“In Mexico, I feel [at] a family reunion, everyone eats, everyone dances and plays games, stuff like that. So that’s something I’ve seen in Polynesian culture, that they’re very family oriented, it’s all about family,” Gabino said. “Polynesian dance goes a long way in connecting to everything in nature, their ancestors, the land they live in.”
“The Hawaiian hula tells stories,” Acevedo said. “For Hawaiians, it was a way of keeping records before there was a written language.”
And The professional division of the Hōkūle’a performs throughout the city. They say their goal is not just to entertain, but to educate.
“Our main focus among all Polynesian cultures is Hawaii and Tahiti. When you go to a luau in Hawaii, they represent all the cultures, all the other Polynesian islands, so people have this idea that it’s Hawaiian dancing. So when they start learning dance in class, they’re like, oh there’s two different things, you know, completely different styles. I feel like I have this responsibility to these Polynesian cultures that I represent, that this has to be the right path, so I try to do my best to keep it as authentic and respectful as possible. .
“By learning a lot of these things directly from the Hawaiians, the Tahitians, we are teaching that to our dancers that these are the movements, these are the teachings that were taught to us,” Acevedo added. “And in most Polynesian cultures, it’s a gift. Then you pass on this gift.
Acevedo and Gabino say their students, who come from all over the Chicago area, often have a personal connection to Polynesian culture that leads them to seek Hōkūle’a.
“I just got a call yesterday from a dancer who was born and raised in Hawaii, he’s lived here in Chicago for five years and misses his home,” Acevedo said. “So for him, it’s more about camaraderie, camaraderie, ohana, a sense of family.”
But whether the dancers come from Hawaii, Mexico or Chicago – and whether they learned these steps on a tropical island or in Jefferson Park – the story Hōkūle’a always recounts the returns to love.
“When I see him dancing, I’m just in love,” Gabino said. “I feel like it’s something that connects us anyway – it’s not our home, but it feels like our home.”
“That’s the cool thing is that we can do business, but we can also play together,” Acevedo said. “Love is deep and real and we can share what we have with others through dance. It’s really cool.”