Nov. 10 —HE TALL-MASTED SAILING SHIPS are gone but the legacy of hula remains. The king and queen are gone. The missionaries are gone. Numerous flowing streams are gone. The ancient temples are overgrown or gone. The taro patches are few and far between. What remains in full flower is hula, both the kahiko (ancient) hula and ‘auana (modern). EXERPT FROM THE FORTHCOMING BOOK. VOICES OF MAUI BEYOND THE BEACH. SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE.
This is particularly true on Maui, with a Lahaina native son, kumu hula and recording artist Keali‘i Reichel and his Halau Ke‘alaokamaile winning in both the kahiko and ‘auana competitions for women and overall wahine honors at the annual Merrie Monarch Festival in 2011 in Hilo. The Maui News called the wins “unprecedented.”
Just what does it take to become an accomplished hula dancer?
Answer from those passionate about hula: years of study and practice, knowledge of both the Hawaiian language and the inner meaning of Hawaiian mele (songs) and chants, and most of all dedication.
To learn the authentic hula of old Hawaii or the modern, dancing it has to become an obsession for haumana (students) of Kumu Hula Keili’i Reichel, the demanding teacher of hula says.
Let’s listen, via scribbled notes (no tape recording allowed), as the kumu instructed his dancers on the beginning “grounding position” at one of the first classes.
“Everything starts from here with flat feet,” said the kumu, pointing to the ground. “Feet flat, toes touching each other, shoulders and body relaxed, arms extended.
“You don’t take big steps. You will lose control of your body if you do. Check the position of your feet. Use your extended arm to bring yourself around. You need to control your body from the tips of your toes. That is the name of the game—control. “Up and down, up and down.