Create A Successful Polynesian Luau Event
Some facts and ideas to help you plan for your Polynesian entertainment event.
From Bright Entertainment, LLC
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  1. Luau and Entertainment Duration
  2. Good Locations
  3. Scheduling the Entertainment
  4. The Polynesian Dance Show
  5. Fire/Knife Dancer
  6. Fire Poi Dance
  7. Audience Participation
  8. Leis
  9. Food
  10. Gifts for Guests
  11. Electricity
  12. Want something Different?
  13. Will there be children?
  14. Do I need a Permit?
  15. Insurance

Luau and Entertainment Duration
Most luaus last 4 to 6 hours. The Polynesian dance entertainment portion of the luau should be 45 to 60 minutes.  Beyond this time, your guests will start to get antsy. <Back to Top>
Good  Locations
A big backyard usually works just fine.  But if you don't have access to one (or if this is a corporate event), then many alternatives are possible.  Options include a restaurant or hotel with a tropical or Asian motif, a boat or yacht, a public park, or the beach.   <Back to Top>
Scheduling the Entertainment
Usually, dance entertainment starts after the main meal and before dessert.  If your event doesn't include a meal, then schedule the entertainment for when the most people will be present.  Your entertainment provider can help you with scheduling.

Be sure to tell your entertainment provider if you want the performers to say or do particular things.  For example, perhaps you want them to play a particular song (like Hawaiian Wedding Song or Huki Lau ), or perhaps you want them to include something humorous about your honoree.  Such matters are best planned in advanced, so the performers will be prepared.   <Back to Top>

The Polynesian Dance Show
Most Polynesian dance shows present dances from several Pacific islands (Tahiti, Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand), with beautiful costumes, music, and implements from those regions.

Consider how big you want the show to be, as this affects your cost.  A  small inexpensive show could include just a single dancer with prerecorded music.  This can work just fine for a small audience.

More impressive still would be to have 2 to 4 dancers.  This creates a more professional production, permitting more costume changes and showing off the synchronization of Polynesian dance choreography.

Including live musicians (usually from 2 to 4 musicians) adds further excitement to the show.  Often, one or more of the musicians can also be hired to to provide dinner music, background ambiance, or dance music.

If you have a big room with lots of guests, you may need up to 10 dancers with live music.

Always, a performer must act as Master of Ceremonies to introduce dance numbers, provide cultural insights, and encourage audience participation.   <Back to Top>

Fire / Knife Dancers
Always popular, the fire dancer twirls, tosses, and catches a flaming knife (lit on both ends) in an exciting dance routine, demonstrating impressive skill and coordination.  If you're going to have a fire dancer, do consider the following:
  • Night time, of course, is better than day time for fire dances, since most of the impressive effects are lost in daylight.
  • Make sure there is no overhead canopy or decoration that could catch fire.
  • In a public location, you may need to get permission or a fire permit.
The fire dance is normally the grand finale of the show.  Because of it's action and frenzied pace, the fire dance itself runs 3 to 5 minutes.  (If longer, it loses  excitement.)   <Back to Top>

Fire Poi

A great alternative to the fire/knife dance is the Fire Poi Ball dance. Fast paced and exciting, the dancer twirls and maneuvers flaming poi balls from long cords, creating fascinating circular patterns of fire in the air.   Based on the  Maori  poi ball dances of New Zealand, this makes a wonderful closing act. (It never fails to please!)

The same safety issues apply as for fire/knife dancing:   No overhead canopy or decoration;  In a public location, you may need to get permission or a fire permit.
  <Back to Top>

Audience Participation
You can have as much audience participation as you think your guests will enjoy.  Usually, guests have fun trying the Hawaiian slow moving "Huki Lau" and the fast moving Tahitian "Otea."

A favorite audience participation number is the Poi Ball dance.  Poi balls are little cushiony balls attached to a braided rope.  Guests often enjoy the challenge of learning to twirl them about in various patterns.

Guests can also be invited to blow the conch shell or play the Tahitian "toere" (slit log drum).   <Back to Top>

Leis can truly add authenticity and fun to your luau.  Traditionally worn for special occasions, such as birthdays, marriages, graduations, and retirements, leis are symbols of friendship, respect, honor, and love.

While traditionally made of fresh flowers, leis can also be made of silk flowers, shells, money, or candy.

Properly worn, the lei should hang not from the neck like a necklace, but rather should rest upon the shoulders, laying comfortably along both the chest and the back.

Your entertainment provider can usually provide almost any kind of leis for your event.  Your local florist may also be able to provide fresh flower leis.   In most mainland cities, fresh flower leis are available in either carnations or orchids.  They can last up to 2 weeks, if properly misted and refrigerated.  The beautifully-scented plumeria leis last only for a day or two.  

Remember that you'll be busy.  Depending on the size of your event, it may be best to have "lei greeters" bestow leis upon your arriving guests.  

A variation on this theme is to set up a lei-making booth, at which guests can string their own fresh flower leis.  Stringing a lei is not at all difficult, but is still best treated as a supervised activity, in which someone assists  your guests as required.     <Back to Top>

The word 'luau' is Hawaiian for feast, so no doubt you'll want to feed your guests.

Truly authentic Hawaiian cuisine (such as poi and saimin) is an acquired taste for most mainlanders.  Usually, you'll score big with various kinds of teriyakis, kebobs, and/or barbecued chicken and ribs.  Rice and tropical fruits (like pineapple, papaya, and mango) also evoke thoughts of the island.  For beverages, fruit punch and mai tais are popular.   <Back to Top>

Gifts for Guests
While by no means required, many hosts like to provide momentos for their guests.  Luau goodie bags , filled with treats from the Islands, are a popular choice . <Back to Top>

If your event is at a park or other outside location, check to see if electricity is available. If there is no electricity, you might need to rent a generator.   <Back to Top>
Want Something Different?
A slightly more zany version of luau entertainment could include an Elvis look-alike singing and rocking to Blue Hawaii, Rock-A-Hula , and other numbers.

If your guests are bird lovers, why not include a tropical bird show?  Your entertainment provider can help you with this and various other alternatives.   <Back to Top>

Will there be children?
Consider hiring entertainment specifically for the children.  Some ideas include a tropical-looking moon bounce for kids to jump in, balloon artists, face painters, or magicians.  You can even have an arts and crafts table at which kids can make their own poi balls, leis, or sea shell sculptures.  Crafts artists can be hired to supervise the children.  Consult your entertainment provider to discuss your needs.
Also, consider providing goodie bags (party bags) for the children.  These are filled with little toys (and sometimes candy) consistant with a luau theme.   Your entertainment provider may be able to provide these to fit your budget.  If you're keeping to a particularly tight budget, inexpensive gifts can be found at some discount stores.  Your entertainment provider should have suggestions for you.   <Back to Top>
Do You Need a Permit?
Some parks and beaches require you to obtain a permit for a large gathering, particularly if there will be cooking of food or professional entertainment (especially fire dancers) involved. Your local parks service can fill you in on any details you'll need.   <Back to Top>
Do make sure that your entertainment provider is insured -- and don't be afraid to ask for proof of insurance.   <Back to Top>

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Bright Entertainment LLC
Redondo Beach, California
(310) 318-2229

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