Ashley Acosta, not your typical dancer

Junior Ashley Acosta is not a conformist. While other people attend jazz lessons, she takes Tahitian dance classes.

“It’s different than what other people usually do. It’s more of a cultural dance than if you were to watch hip-hop or ballet. I like it because it’s like a form of expression. I could express myself through dance,” Acosta said.

Tahitian dancing is an ethnic dance that has strong beats and usually accompanied by drum beats. It is similar to hula dancing, but the movements for the Tahitian dance are more rapid and upbeat.

Acosta first started taking Tahitian dance classes six years ago due to the influence of her mother, who lived in Hawaii as a child.

“At first I was a little hesitant, but she wanted to get me out there. I’m really glad she did though. It’s been a really good experience, and she just wanted me to try something new,” Acosta said.

Ever since then, Acosta has been attending weekly lessons at Dellos Dance Studio with her teacher Christa Nink.

“It definitely made me come out of my shy zone a lot because I could go up in front of people and perform,” Acosta said, “Since I’m in a group with people for dance, I was able to meet a lot of new people and experience a lot with them.”

Although Acosta usually performs with her group for casual events such as birthday parties, Nink asked Acosta to attend the annual International Tahitian Ori (ITO) Competition, which took place at the Long Beach Recreational Park on Sept. 12-13.

“I want to do it because I’ve always been with a team. [I thought that] maybe it’s more fun doing it solo, and it really was. It’s totally different, but it’s a good feeling,” Acosta said.

Acosta was one of 50 finalists from the 100 dancers who participated.

“I was scared because it was my first one, and I was intimidated. I know a lot of girls there have a lot of experience. It was just really scary because I know they are really good, even little girls, but when I went on, it was just fun. I was just there to be able to try it out,” Acosta said.

Although Acosta usually performs in groups, she performed a solo improvisation dance to a random drum beat for the ITO Competition.

“Because I’ve always performed with a team, we’ve always done the same routines, but the competition opened me up to a lot more experiences. It motivated me more because being solo and not being able to depend on other people made me want to work harder to get better,” Acosta said.

Acosta also plans on going to more competitions in the future such as the Tahiti Fete in San Jose and spending more time on Tahitian dancing.

“I’ve always done it for entertainment. I would [dance] for specific events like private shows or something. We’ve never had a competition. Now that I have done it, I want to be more serious about it and practice for competitions. I want to get better because now that I know what it’s really like, I’ve overcome my fear of it,” Acosta said.

By Emily Chen, Arts editor