Kauii'healani Mahikoa Brandt
2003 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Kauii'healani Mahikoa Brandt is a highly-respected Hawaiian hula performer who has preserved the tradition within her community by teaching young people. Born on Oahu, HI of Hawaiian and Filipino heritage, Brandt was raised with strict Hawaiian guidelines. The most influential person in her life was her tutu (grandmother), who spoke only Hawaiian and taught her about the culture. Brandt later she studied with many hula teachers, including Pansy Stagner. She taught herself to play the ukulele, and attended Kamehameha School for Hawaiians. Brandt’s dance troupe was recruited to help open Walt Disney World in 1971, and most members have remained in Florida for the last 30 years.
Brandt has been passing on her expertise in Hawaiian dance and culture for over 50 years. She worked for Disney for more than two decades, started her own Hawaiian Entertainment business, and also developed Na Opio Pio I Orlando, a hula halau (school) and dance group for children in Orlando’s Polynesian community. She has been a major teacher and promoter of traditional Hawaiian dance during the past twenty-five years. Brandt and her students from within the Polynesian community continue to perform at Disney’s Polynesian Resort and at numerous cultural events throughout central Florida.