Leilani Cancilla grew up dancing from the age of 8. Born on Waikiki Beach on the island of O’ahu—Leilani was introduced to Hula dance by her mother, Dorothy Matsumoto Thomas. Her love for dance took her to a studio in Santa Rosa, California that expanded her knowledge of dance to include ballet and jazz while still cultivating her talent for Hula.
As Leilani spent more and more time dancing, her love for the art continued to grow. She and her sister Kealoha eventually made it to San Francisco where they attended classes at the San Francisco Ballet Studio for over seventeen years. They continued taking jazz classes but their forte was always Hula—having years of private instruction from the famous Kumu Hula and performer ‘Koochie’ Koons.
By the age of twelve, Leilani and Kealoha were traveling and performing professionally around the United States under the name, “The Thomas Sisters.” By the age of 16 the Thomas sisters were performing Hula on a weekly television spot. By age nineteen, the Thomas sisters joined Johnny Pineapple’s famous South Pacific Review and continued to tour the United States, performing in venues alongside famous singer Frank Sinatra and famous Kumu Hula and performer Hilo Hattie.
At age 23, Leilani’s professional career ended. She married Joseph Cancilla and they both settled down in Santa Rosa, California and raised a family. She started a home-based studio called ‘Leilani’s School of Polynesian Dance’ and taught her daughters the art of Hula. Leilani’s daughter Lani continued the tradition by taking up the business and moving to Orem, Utah. Lani in turn taught the next generation of the family and also began teaching youth around the community under the name ‘Lani’s School of Polynesian Dance.’
In 2003, Island Style Dance Studio & Performing Company, L.L.C. was founded.
In 2012 Island Style Dance Studio added Shotokan Karate to their curriculum.
In 2013 Island Style Dance Studio created a ballroom technique program to their curriculum as a way to support and supplement school ballroom programs. In 2015, the Alpine Junior High Medley Team and Performing Teams were dissolved by Alpine School District and the program merged with Island Style. The program has now expanded to include six teams and about one hundred dancers.
In 2014 Island Style Dance Studio added “cross-training” classes such as ballet, jazz, and contemporary. We are excited to launch our “All That Jazz” program as an expansion of these classes which will now include a jazz competition team in the 2016-2017 year.