Alumni Spotlight: Rayann (Ray) Onzuka, '14
Posted by Caitlin Joyce on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 9:19 AM PST
Seattle University’s student club Hui ‘O Nani Hawaii Club provides a home away from home for the people of Hawaii and educates the Seattle U community about its cultural heritage. One of the club’s most loved tradition is lu’au, now in its 54th year celebrating the music, dance, food and culture of Hawaii.
Alumna Rayann (Ray) Onzuka, ’14, was an officer of the Hawaii Club for five years including serving as Entertainment Chair for the 50th anniversary lu’au. She choreographed a few of the dances each year, a role she still performs as an alumna.
Ray, who was born and raised in Hawaii, found her way to the mainland after visiting her sister in Seattle. “My sister was the Entertainment Chair for Seattle University’s lu’au and choreographed the dances, a role I knew I wanted.” Ray has been a dancer since the age of six. “Before college the first job I had ever had was being a part of a Polynesian dance group.” As the club choreographer she taught dancers Hula, Tahitian and Samoan dances.
“My favorite memory of lu’au was seeing my dancers perform on the big stage and bringing my choreography to life. Some of the performers had never danced before and it was exciting to witness their first time performing in front of an audience,” Ray shared.
Ray now works at the Wing Luke Museum as the Visitor Services and Events Manager. The Wing Luke Museum connects the Seattle community to the history, cultures and art of Asian Pacific Americans. “The museum also covers the history of Pacific Islanders and so I feel deeply connected to the place and passionate about what we do,” Ray said. One of the events she plays a role in is Jam Fest, put on by the Wing Luke Museum to help support mom and pop restaurants in the International District and revitalize the community.
Despite her busy work schedule, Ray has stayed connected to Seattle University through Hui ‘O Nani. “I choreographed a few of the dances again this year and while this will be my last year as choreographer, I will always support lu’au.” Ray is exited to once again see her dancers take the stage at lu’au on April 30th and she hopes other alumni plan to come out and support the students.
“Students are continuing to expand this 54-year old tradition in new and innovative ways. It grows every year and coming back as an alum is different. You get to sit in the seats and enjoy the show instead of worrying about your costume or preparing lomi lomi salmon.”
As a dedicated Hawaii Club alum, Ray hopes to see connections between the Hawaii Club and alumni continue to grow. “For Hawaii Club students, there are so many professional development skills to be gained from interacting with alumni. After graduating, it is important to stay connected for our own success whether we stay here or return home.” Ray found her role at the Wing Luke Museum through a Seattle U contact. “I’m deeply passionate about Polynesian culture and I’m so proud of the students. They will always have my support.”
If you’re an alum of Hawaii Club or interested in experiencing and learning more about Hawaiian culture, mark your calendars now for April 30th and the 54th Annual Lu’au entitled “HO'ŌLA LĀHUI, HOʻOULU PAE ʻAINA: VIBRANT PEOPLE, THRIVING LAND.”
You can see past performances choreographed by Ray below.