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Off-the-clock: Securing Hawaiian roots

Denver Water security specialist by day, Polynesian dancer by night.
Trisha Jesik, security specialist at Denver Water, spends her free time performing Polynesian dance, an art she learned as a young girl.

Trisha Jesik is a security specialist at Denver Water, where she works to help keep Denver Water safe. A very serious, and sometimes stressful job.

So, how does she unwind? By doing the hula!

Jesik spends her free time performing Polynesian dance, an art she learned as a young girl.

A mix of hula, Tahitian, Samoan, Tongan and Maori dances, Polynesian dance allows Jesik to celebrate and honor her Hawaiian heritage.

Jesik’s grandmother was Hawaiian, and she took great pride in her culture. She taught her children and grandchildren about Hawaiian traditions, language and — most important — Polynesian dance.

“I remember my grandmother, who we called Puna, having all of us grandchildren stand against a wall with bent knees, keeping our shoulders still while we balanced yardsticks on top of our heads and practiced our uwehe and ami techniques,” Jesik said. “Puna always said, ‘the form is what shows your discipline, we can work on your grace later; the grace tells your story.’”

Trisha (left) performs with her mom, Maile; sister, Kiani; and cousin, Jillian, at a luau at CSU in Pueblo.

Jesik’s grandmother and aunts made their dance costumes, and the family would perform around Colorado at various festivals, luaus and at Hawaiian festivals called ho’olaule’as.

As she grew older, Jesik focused more on the hula and Tahitian traditions. “It’s what you think of when you hear the word ‘hula’ — the muumuus, or grass skirts, and swaying hips. I love these types of dances because they tell a story, and the music represents the spirit of aloha, embracing who you are and where you are from,” she said.

Trisha and her daughter prepare to perform a Tahitian dance.

Although Jesik doesn’t have much free time to practice dancing today — her priorities have shifted to making sure access controls are working, managing security personnel and checking that fences are secure and cameras are functioning properly throughout Denver Water’s vast collection, treatment and distribution system — she still joins in at family gatherings dancing with her mother and cousins while her uncle plays the ukulele. She’s also teaching her daughters and nieces the art of Polynesian dance.

“It’s important to me that we stay in touch with our Hawaiian roots, and we try to get back to Hawaii to visit family as much as possible. I hope to instill in my daughters the same love and appreciation of Hawaiian culture and traditions that was given to me as a young girl.”