Kailani, which means waters from heaven in Hawaiian, is made up of Olivia Iolani and Chris Merwin. They perform traditional Hawaiian hula dance and steel guitar music for children and adults of all ages. Their mission is to introduce audiences to authentic Hawaiian culture through dance and music. One thing that sets them apart from other hula dance troupes is that they tailor their show according to the event. Depending on where they perform they can make the show very cultural and educational, or they can keep the focus on fun. Audience members will be given grass skirts and brought up to dance the hula along with Olivia, and cultural and historical information is given for both the music and the dance.

Olivia Iolani is the lead dancer of the Aloha Iolani Dance Troupe. The troupe was featured in New York Newsday and ABC TV and performs in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk libraries, museums, senior centers and children’s organizations. Olivia Iolani is also the director of Dancealoha, a New York based company that specializes in Hawaiian theme and Polynesian theme Luau party dance entertainment for children and seniors.

Chris Merwin has been playing the Hawaiian lap steel guitar, known as kika kila in Hawaiian, for over twelve years and has traveled to Hawaii to study at the source. He mixes the lesser-known faster style in with the familiar slow, lilting style that is instantly recognizable as Hawaiian music. He uses an assortment of steel guitars from the 20’s and 30’s, including various rare Weissenborns, which are made of indigenous Hawaiian koa wood, and a 1929 National tri cone. Chris is one of only a few in the Tri-State area that plays traditional Hawaiian steel guitar, and his collection of vintage steel guitars is one of the best in the country.

Hawaiian dance is one of the most beautiful and expressive of all dance forms. While the hips sway to the rhythm of the music the hands move gracefully to tell stories about the islands, the people, and the culture. The music of the steel guitar is equally beautiful and is the sound that comes to everyone’s mind when they think of Hawaiian music. It’s sound conjures up images of palm trees swaying gently in the trade winds while waves break on the beach. When the two come together it instantly transports the audience to Hawaii.