Pocket Life

By Corky Mau
April 2024

Dance Fever

Local hula school follows Merrie Monarch

When I lived in Hawaii, my favorite event was the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, where the best hula dancers showcase their artistry. It runs March 31 to April 6. Can’t attend in person, but I’ll stream it.

Merrie Monarch started in 1964, to boost tourism. It succeeded. One of the nation’s most popular cultural festivals, Merrie Monarch draws thousands and honors the Hawaiian culture of hula.

Watching Merrie Monarch, I think of Bernadette Kaponookalani Nakamura and her passion to share hula traditions in Pocket.

Nakamura began her hula journey as a youngster. “I’ve always been into music and dance, especially hula,” she says. Dividing time between Hawaii and the West Coast, she settled in Sacramento about 15 years ago.

The master hula teacher leads the Ohana Dance Group and Kuhui Halau O Kaponookalani Pa Olapa Kahiko.

Her climb to hula master status took more than six years. Nakamura completed Hawaiian studies while raising a family and working as a special education program specialist for Sacramento City Unified School District.

“Hula is my escape, bringing me positive energy and restoring my spirit, especially after a long day at work,” she says.

Studies were intense. She learned the Hawaiian language and spiritual connection of musical chants and dance. Training was done in visits to Hawaii and over Zoom when the pandemic interrupted in-person training.

Nakamura studied under hula expert and songwriter Lehua Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, who often judges hula competitions at Merrie Monarch. Today Nakamura is part of Hewett’s hula family, sharing his choreography with others.

In 2022, Nakamura completed the Hawaiian Music Certification at the University of Hawaii Windward Community College. Once Hewett was satisfied the knowledge would be responsibly used and protected, an ’uniki graduation ceremony was held for Nakamura last October.

“I’m committed to hula for life,” Nakamura says. “I will work to continue the perpetuation of my lineage and give my communities the gifts I have been given.”

To kick off this year’s Big Day of Giving, the Ohana Dance Group welcomes everyone to an open house Saturday, April 27, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Purchase Hawaiian food and products. Enjoy live music and hula. The school is located at 6235 Belleau Wood Lane.

The group provides hula lessons and instructions on Hawaiian instruments. For information, visit ohanadancegroup.com or call (916) 426-6329.


The community farmers market at Elks Lodge No. 6 offers fresh produce and crafts from small businesses.

Families pull wagons filled with flowers, local honey, home-baked goods and produce. Local musicians perform and food trucks are open. Shop local and support small businesses.

The market operates Saturdays, April through October, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Come early. Vendors often sell out.


In partnership with SactoMoFo, City Council member Rick Jennings resumes “Food Truck Mania” at Garcia Bend Park this month. Bring family and friends every third Friday for food and fun. The program kicks off Friday, April 19, from 5–8 p.m.

Corky Mau can be reached at corky.sue50@gmail.com. Submissions are due six weeks prior to the publication month. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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