Hula with Eva Celebrates the Spirit of Aloha

Vi at Palo Alto resident Eva Jones has always had a passion for dance. Thirty years ago, when she started to find ballet too strenuous, she searched for something that could keep her on her feet and challenge her in new and exciting ways. That’s when she discovered hula.


Button to play video

After taking lessons and learning the steps, Eva went on to volunteer as a hula teacher at a senior community in San Mateo. She quickly noticed that the combination of the gentle movements of the dance with the memory work of the steps created a positive and impactful mind-body connection for the residents. 

“It lit up their life,” said Eva.

So, when Eva moved to Vi at Palo Alto in 2019, she knew that she wanted to share hula with her new community. With the help of the Lifestyle department, Eva has been able to introduce hula dancing and its many benefits to her fellow residents.

Stepping in at your own pace

Resident Sheila Buhr, who moved to Vi during the pandemic, was eager to start mingling with her neighbors and try new things. When she ran into Eva in the mailroom, it felt like kismet. 

“Eva said, ‘I’m starting this class and it combines softer motions, memory training, upper body movement, lower body movement and music,’” said Sheila, “and I thought that sounded ideal.”

Deanna Tarr initially sought out the class as another way to exercise but has been pleasantly surprised by the additional perks of hula – including the new friendships she’s developed with fellow residents. 

“I’ve been a dancer all my life. I love dancing,” said Deanna, “and it looked like a fun way to stay active. The community of the hula class is nice because I meet people that I haven’t known at all.”

Eva understands that every person is unique and may have their own physical limitations. That’s why her class is tailored to accommodate everyone. 

Hula class participants dance.

“Eva has a beautiful approach,” said Sheila. “She’s very gentle, and she really understands human nature.”

Residents are welcome to try the class at any point or just pop in to observe before getting their feet wet (or their hips moving). 

“Hula is for everybody,” said Eva.

Embracing the spirit of aloha
Eva leads class participants in a dance.

Hula is a form of storytelling: dancers use their arms, hands and hips to share their culture and tell the story of the Hawaiian Islands.

Practicing hula also celebrates the spirit of aloha, which means more than “hello” or “goodbye”— The Hawaiian Law of the Aloha Spirit defines it as “the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.” 

“Hawaiian dances really teach you how to share common human kindness,” said Eva.

Eva’s class honors tradition by incorporating cultural elements like Hawaiian music and traditional clothing, such as floral and kukui nut leis. But she also adds unique spins that help her class tell their own stories, including practicing a combination set to a song special to people in the Bay Area: Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”  

An extraordinary sense of community

The compassion shared in hula reflects the day-to-day life outside of the classroom as well—warmth and inclusiveness radiate throughout the Vi at Palo Alto community.

“Not everybody has family nearby. So, you rely on the friendships that you create here at Vi,” said Sheila. “The staff is always looking for ways that they can support us, in our bodies, our minds and our hearts.”

Eva, who didn’t know anybody when she first moved in, now has many meaningful relationships.

“We have dinner together, and if somebody doesn't show up, we'll call them. It's kind of like a hula family.”

Added Deanna: “It’s a happy place.”

Eva's hula class participants smile together.