CityView Magazine

September 2022

CityView Magazine - Fayetteville, NC

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12 September 2022 K ui Rivera lives for the art of hula and her beloved Aloha Ka'naka O Hula Halau — better known as "e Hula Girls." Since 2006, she has led the Hawaiian-Polynesian dance troupe in hundreds of performances at community gatherings, including Fourth Friday, the Dogwood Festival and the International Folk Festival. "Hula is the language of Hawaii, the island people," she says. "It's sacred. It's beauty. Hula is the language of the heart." Known for her sunny spirit, Rivera was thrown for a loop when she was diagnosed with Stage 2A breast cancer in September 2021 following her annual mammogram. Vivacious and petite, with a joyful giggle, she felt like the air had been taken out of her sails. "I felt lost," says the 63-year-old mother of three and grandmother of four. She credits her husband, Jorge, for helping her navigate the journey — and knowing what her soul instinctively needs. "He took me to the beach, and I put my toes in the sand and cried." Over the course of several weeks of chemotherapy at Womack Army Medical Center, Rivera's emotions were a roller coaster, and her memory, a bit fuzzy, she admits. But she kept dancing. As much as her energy levels would allow, she also continued weekly practices with her "girls" (plus one man in the group) at Hope Mills Lake park. "e moment I hear the music, I just move. I forget the pain, the headaches. It is natural for me. It makes me feel good; it makes me feel free," says Rivera, whose full name is Fiante Kuinanialoha Rivera. She has been dancing almost her entire life, along with making traditional costumes and accessories. She started studying hula at age 5 in Honolulu. COVER STORY Hula dreams Keeping the dance spirit alive, Kui Rivera refuses to let cancer stand in her way BY JANET GIBSON PHOTOGRAPHY BY TONY WOOTEN

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