Aroha Arts Collective moves into Florence incubator facilities

By: Matthew Christian

FLORENCE, S.C. – Aroha Arts Collective danced into the Charles W. Gould Manufacturing and Business Incubator on Wednesday afternoon.

Aroha founder, director, and lead instructor Adalia Ellis-Aroha moved her dance instruction business into the incubator next to the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology on the campus of Florence-Darlington Technical College.

Ellis-Aroha said she had been renting studio space at several locations around Florence but decided her business needed a more permanent address. She said she has eventual plans of relocating her business into the downtown area of Florence.

“My business has been up and running for a while,” Ellis-Aroha said. “I was living in Raleigh but didn’t really kind of settle in to building a community until I was here in Florence.”

Ellis-Aroha also cut the ribbon to celebrate joining the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

She said she joined because of the chamber’s efforts in establishing businesses in the city’s downtown.

She said she grew up in Florence and left as a teenager. She also spent time in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Raleigh, and Myrtle Beach. Ellis-Aroha said she decided to come back to Florence after she got connected with Ezra Brown, the owner of Soule Café. Brown invited her to come to Florence and teach classes a couple of times a week.

“So many people came out and I saw that there was an interest for this style of dance,” Ellis-Aroha continued. “And so we decided to move here.”

Also, as a member of the Bahá’í Faith, she wanted to be closed to the activities in that community. According to, the Bahá’í Faith “is a world religion based on the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. He taught there is one God and one human family, and that the great religions of the world represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society.”

Aroha Arts Collective features instruction in three types of Latin dance, kizomba, bachata, and salsa, as well as instruction in hip-hop, and afro-house.

The name “Aroha” derives from a Maori word that roughly translates to love. It is pronounced like the Hawaiian “Aloha” but with an “r” instead of an “l.” The Maori are the native people of the islands of New Zealand.

Ellis-Aroha said she adopted the name for her dance instruction classes while she was teaching in Abu Dhabi and a student of hers suggested the name.

“I was already trying to figure out what I wanted to have to describe my company, my organization as a dancer and this was the word she said, ‘I think the word that would fit was aroha,’” Ellis-Aroha said. “It means love, love of community, love of what you bring to the community, love of dance, love of art. It’s just so all-encompassing.”