‘It’s a dream come true’: Polynesian dance studio tries to connect St. George community

ST. GEORGE —  Since 2006, Siva Pasefika has been teaching Polynesian dance classes in Washington County wherever they could find practice space. Now, they have their very own studio in St. George where they can teach a variety of classes, refine their skills and bring families together. 

The Keil family cuts the ribbon at the new Siva Pasefika dance studio in St. George, Utah on Jan. 8, 2021. | Photo by Megan Webber, St. George News.

The local dance company held its grand opening Friday night, complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and words from the founders.

The dance company and the studio, located at 1025 E. Tabernacle Street in St. George, are the culmination of founder April Te’o Keil’s childhood dream, which she has been running for the past 15 years with the help of her husband Ron and her children. 

“It’s a dream come true for my wife and the kids,” Ron Keil said. “The great thing about it is it keeps us together and it’s just wonderful to see the kids carrying on the culture. I was born and raised in Samoa so I grew up in the culture, but what better way to express that than with dances and music and all that good stuff? It lightens up the heart.”

April and Ron moved to St. George 24 years ago from Samoa. They sold all their belongings and brought their young children from the tropical islands to the desert, which was a big difference in the environment but exciting, April said. 

“After a few years of living here, I thought, ‘Man, I really need to instill culture in these kids and have them learn and know their culture,’” she said. 

Te’o Keil first started teaching classes through Dixie State University’s Continuing Education program. Since then, Siva Pasefika has grown into a professional dance company that offers classes to girls, boys and women of all ages in addition to performing at parties, benefits and events in Southern Utah. With the new dance studio comes a new phase of leadership as well, as April and Ron’s children step up to teach most of the classes. 

“This has been a long time coming,” said Dahlia Keil, the oldest daughter, of the grand opening. “This is not only a place to come dance, it’s a place to connect with others and enjoy life and have fun.”

She added that as part of its new phase, Siva Pasefika hopes to provide health and wellness advocacy for the local Polynesian community. Sinalei Keil backed up her older sister. 

“A lot of us are stuck inside, stuck at our jobs and we’re not really able to get out right now,” the younger sister said. “So we’re excited to provide this space. It’s a huge space, so we have enough room to distance and welcome a lot of people.”

A mural painted by Karl Mulitalo at the entrance of the new Siva Pasefika dance studio in St. George, Utah. Jan. 8, 2021. Photo by Megan Webber, St. George News.

The new studio was renovated with the Keil family’s culture in mind.

At the front entrance is a large mural painted by Springdale artist Karl Mulitalo. The mural features a Polynesian woman beneath a coconut tree. People in Samoa use every part of the coconut tree on a daily basis, Te’o Keil said. A symbol of life and culture, the image seemed like the perfect representation of the company’s values to display at the front of their new space.

The St. George Chamber of Commerce also attended the grand opening and the new space was also blessed with a prayer.

At the new studio, Siva Pasefika will continue to offer its Polynesian dance classes for kids and adults, as well as new yoga, hip-hop, salsa and zumba classes. To register for classes and learn more, visit Siva Pasefika’s website or visit the new studio at 1025 E Tabernacle Street in St. George.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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