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NEW! Interviews!

ALoha All!

For those of you who are hula haumana, or anyone who’s interested in hula, this spate of questions from Quinn, an Anthropology student at Wheaton College really made me think long and hard about hula. Enjoy!!

1)When did you first start dancing hula? Twenty-eight years ago, when I was thirty-one.
2) How were you first introduced? A fellow Middle Eastern dancer was teaching hula and invited me to try it.
3) When did you decided to pursue hula, influences? a)As soon as I took my first lesson. b) I met Olita Hayes, an elegant Samoan dancer in my first teacher’s troupe, and we became dear friends. She encouraged me and corrected me, as she had studied with kumus at PCC , and also comes from the Polynesian culture. We performed together for many years, and still dance together.She has taught me great respect, and the reasons for it, towards kumu hula ,Polynesian history and culture.
4) What do you want to inspire/convey to your students? Heh…I could write a book on this answer alone!
Here’s a very short list:
~The ALOHA intrinsic in all hula. The meaningful depth….. ah, the depth, the breadth, the scope of hula. The kaona (hidden meaning under the Hawaiian wording.). The treasured preserved history, that reaches fifty generations back in time, and how many forward?
The care,dedication, sacrifice, practice, time, and effort of each kumu who has taught the next generations of haumana to come. The grounded sense of inclusion in being `olapa,or haumana,  to dance hula for an audience and share all this depth with them.
~ The sense, feel, and honor of SO many kupuna hula…(In our pule before each show, we invite any spirits of love and light to dance with us.
Several times, when there were only three of us dancing, the activities directors have mentioned how pleased the residents were to see “so many dancers”
or “such a nice big group”onstage. We always wonder just how many they see!
Sometimes we feel the kupuna’s spiritual presence, but have never seen them hula with us.)
         ~ The importance of totally embodying the narrative of the dance with appropriate facial expressions and body language. One of my kumus explained our sacred duty as hula haumana as “being so able to place yourself
in the setting, physical place, time, and emotion of the hula,IN THE MOMENT YOU ARE DANCING, that anyone watching will be transported and included in that reality, as if experiencing the happenings exactly as  they are described in the mele/oli.” We are grateful to often have confirmation by audience members,sometimes tearfully, that this has indeed happened during our performances.
~Did I mention the ALOHA?*grin*
5)What does Hawaiian music mean to you personally? Home. Spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally….home. Joy. Caring tenderly for each other. Aloha. Fond memories from times past, and the certainty of more in the future. Inclusion. Union. Shared respect. Forgetting myself in the power and beauty of it. A reason to dance.
6) Do you feel the music informs the dance? Yes, the music/rhythm, and of course, the `olelo. No `olelo, no hula!
7) What inspires you to keep dancing? Learning and telling the stories through dance.There’s always another mele or oli to learn, always another hula.Over the years, I seem to be led in certain directions with my studies of hula.. for instance, the epic legend of the half-human,half-goddess La`ieikawai. We know several hula/meles which describe different points in her story, and I have been given or found MANY books and research materials about her. And for some reason, we have learned many olis and hulas  about the mighty struggles between Hi`iakaikapoliopele and her sister, Pele, many of these including Hi`iakaikapoliopele’s friend Hopoe.
Lately we have been given several Regency hulas which include King Kawika Kalakaua, his sister Queen Lili`uokalani, their sister-in-law and cousin, Queen Emma, and the sweet, doomed Princess Kaiulani.  Of course we have studied up on their relationships and the Hawaiian Kingdom at that time, so we may have an accurate picture of what happened then!
  And then, there are SO many styles of hula to explore! Kahiko, fast `auana, slow,dreamy`auana, place hulas, event hulas, fun hulas, name hulas, implement hulas, even kolohe (sassy) hulas!
Even if I live to be 100, I could not possibly learn everything, all the hulas and lore I am interested in, and fascinated by!
8) How does chanting impact the dance? `Oli is more raw, more elemental, more powerful than instrumental music. The mea `oli uses his/her ha, or breath, only, to produce and weave the line of the story, sometimes accompanied by ipu, or ipuheke, another elemental, earthy sound. It stirs the soul in a completely different way than more modern instrumental music;and the movements may be more powerful,    almost militaristic because of this.
9) How do traditional instruments influence the music/dance? Well…for me, whether it’s the deep/sharp tone of the ipu,the strains of guitar or `ukulele, click of `ili`ili, rattle of `uli`uli or pu`ili, our dance needs them for the feel,  the soul, and the rhythm of hula.
10) Why do people on the mainland like Hawaiian music? Hey, who DOESN’T like Hawaiian music? Whether it’s an electric `oli, a snappy modern tune, or a languid slow `auana, there’s just something about the built-in aloha that captures the attention and the imagination.
11) Any musicians that influence you currently or in the past? Too many to count, but I’d have to list: The Islanders(The first Polynesian live band I ever danced with) O`Brian Eselu, Keali`i Reichel, Mark Keali`i Ho`omalu,  Charles Ka`upu, Israel Kamakawiwo`ole, Eddie Kamai, the Lim Family, Makaha Sons, the Cazimero Brothers, Pali, Na Leo, the Kahuanu Lake Trio ,Led Ka`apana, Lina Machado, Hoku Zuttermeister,and Kumu Kawika Alfiche….for a few.
12) Any misconceptions about Hawaiian music? Here on the Mainland East Coast? Are you KIDDING??? SO many, too many to name! And especially misconceptions about HULA!  I admit, I had some as well, before I started learning hula. My ancestry is not even remotely Polynesian. I am STILL learning,especially the language, and will continue till I pass on!   This is one of the BIG reasons we are constantly educating when we entertain; it’s always an outreach with us, as we weave lots of facts, stories, legends, and history into the narration of our shows.
13) Where do you think Hawaiian music is going from here? Not sure, it’ll be interesting to see what unfolds. I’m quite the traditionalist when it comes to mele styles, so I’m hoping the current Jawaiian and hiphop styles are only a passing phase!