A DAY IN THE PARK

Dancing, eating, socializing at Kuhio Kalaniana’ole Park in Keaukaha

Today about 20 members of our hula halau decided to hold a practice at the park. We’ve been planning on doing this monthly and today we finally got it together to do it…thank you Patti. She arrived with her super sound system that has Bluetooth capabilities so no need for electrical outlets.  It was like having all of our favorite singing artists right there in the park with us. This was a video showing the beautiful park, the bay and some of us getting ready to dance, but some reason it uploaded as a photo. Oh well, another glitch with me and Windows 10.  Since I was dancing, I didn’t get any of us actually dancing.

The weather was perfect. It’s been incredibly hot lately. My poor trees at home are suffering, my grass is brown and crunchy. I’m sewing in my little out-building which is usually about 95 to 96 degrees. I’m thankful for my little tower fan! However, the park was perfect. It’s right at the edge of Reed’s Bay in Hilo, there was a nice tradewind blowing through the beautiful Shower trees. There was just enough shade for some of us to dance in with a few line changes so we got a break from the sun. A pop up tent protecting the incredible array of pupus–everything from fried chicken to a vegetable platter with hummus, orange/walnut scones baked fresh that morning. The children of some of the girls had a great time swimming, riding scooters, playing catch. We DANCED! Some of the songs I’m still “following” as they were taught when I was on Maui for three years, but it gave me a chance to practice a couple. Some of the songs were old favorites–Ke Aloha, Ke Akua Mana E, Holei.  Some were new favorites–Pua Kiele, Wainiha,  He U’i, Kaimana Hila. Some days are just made for dancing.

This park held a lot of memories for me as when, in 1963, I was 18, my family sailed from San Diego to Hilo and it was at Reed’s Bay that we dropped anchor. But without any facilities, after a couple of weeks, we sailed on to Honolulu. Then when I returned to live in Hilo in 1975 my husband and I helped organize the Hilo Sailing Club for Hobie Cats. After our regattas we would come over to what is now this park. At the time we had to clear a lot of the California grass, pick up litter and make a little area to have a BBQ by the beach. There was an old abandoned store or hotel that had burned down, so we cleared quite a bit of cement chunks, but had a bit of a foundation for folding chairs and the hibachis. Much has changed, but much has not. It still has a local vibe. It still welcomes families. The bay is still refreshingly cool on a hot day.

We plan on doing this monthly at many of the different parks around the Hilo area. I can’t wait!

Old Lady

This afternoon I turned on the TV waiting for the NCAA National Championship game and to kill time while I was cooking dinner I flipped on Law and Order, SVU. An “old lady” is raped and people are wondering why anyone would want to rape an old lady.  While looking for evidence, one of the detectives asked the age of the old lady. Well, she was 72. Now this is also my age and I’ve never thought of myself as an old lady. But, it did get me thinking about aging and what it means to each of us. I have certainly noticed several changes in my body. Things are starting to go south, my hair is getting very thin and getting silvery. I’m discovering age spots on my legs and arms from spending way too much fun in the sun as a girl. I spend a lot of time bending over my sewing machine and I spent many years taking notes on a laptop computer at work so my back is getting a curvature it never had before. It’s more difficult to get up off the ground when I sit on it to put grommets into my hula implement bags.

On the good side I still have a lot of energy. I take four classes of dance a week with extra practices here and there. I still have enough balance to work out on my Simply Fit Board which helps keep the heart rate up, the waist trimmed. I’ve kept my weight down at 125-128. I sleep well and eat well. I enjoy cooking healthy and seldom eat out. I can still mow my yard although the huge buffalo grass has me whipped. I keep my mind from atrophy by trying to keep up with current events which unfortunately also makes my blood pressure rise, but since it’s always been very low, I’m not worried. Although I didn’t grow up with computers and Smart Phones, I can usually manage to use them without a lot of problems except for Windows 10, which I loathe. I have a lovely relationship with my youngest son who calls me every week just to talk. We always seem to find so much to talk about. And, I’m happy that both my sons are doing well and have very special women in their lives.

So, though I might be considered an “old lady” by some standards, by my standards I may be getting older, but I’m not feeling my age. I’m anxiously awaiting what is in store for me in the future…number one wish–a partner that dances!

A New Passion In My Life

Nope, it’s not what you’re thinking. No new man in my life. I don’t think I’m quite ready for that again. I’ve discovered Country Line Dancing! I’ve been dancing my entire life. I started out at age 4 dancing tap and ballet, then in Jr. High my mom taught all the neighbor kids to rock and roll or swing. I loved that! This carried my through to high school. I took ballroom dancing in Jr. High as well which I enjoyed, but most of the boys didn’t so finding a partner was a challenge. In high school I danced everything from rock to modern to jazz. In my Jr. and Sr. years I had a boyfriend that was one of the best dancers ever and we went to all the school dances. We both raced gymkhana on horseback so attended a lot of “barn dances”. In those days no one line danced. We did the two-step, country swing, cha-cha. Then I moved to Hawai’i. I started working and seldom went dancing.  I married a non-dancer at age 30 and though we did a little disco it was never his thing. It wasn’t until I was in my early forties I discovered hula which became a passion. I’ve now been dancing hula for about 30 years and still look forward to twice weekly classes. But, about two months ago I just got a hankerin’ to try line dancing. This turned out to be some of the most fun times of my life. Because I’ve danced so much of my life I catch on fast and I now have about 10-12 songs under my buckled belt. Last month the Elk’s Club sponsored a Country Night with a live band, $3.00 dinners and $2.50 beers! When it comes to dancing, I’m not shy. I got out there even if I didn’t know the dance. By the second or third round I usually had it down. What fun. They are having another Country Night tomorrow and I can’t wait to go. I have jeans and a cute shirt with a fringed scarf attached. I might even dig out my old belt with the big buckle! I have boots! I will dance the Tush Push, Waltz Across Texas, Baby Bubbles, Huggable. I will be smiling and laughing and having the time of my life. If I can get someone to take a pic or two I will post an update.

Musical surprises

On Friday while working at the airport I was surprised to see Kuana Torres-Kahele at a baggage claim carousel. I hadn’t heard anything about a pending concert. So, not being shy, I walked over and asked him if he were here just for a visit from the Big Island or did he have something coming up on Maui. Well, yes indeed, he was having a CD release party that night at the Bailey House Museum. Tickets would be selling at the door at 4:30pm. I was scheduled to get off work at 3:00pm. Perfect timing. So, I decided to stay in town and not make the long trip back up to my home in Kula. However, I was clad in my airport uniform–a bright yellow blouse and black pants. I decided the pants could stay, but the blouse would have to go. Off I go to Ross for an inexpensive top. I found a cute black and white striped shirt with a sparkly graphic print and a bonus little short sleeve “jacket” attached. Perfect. I was wearing my utilitarian shoes, had only rubber slippers in the car, so since the pants covers all but the toes, they remained. I was good to go. One stop at the ATM and off I went.

The Bailey House is a lovely little museum just past Wailuku town on the way to Iao Valley. Though somewhat small by museum standards it houses a wonderful array of ancient artifacts–carved fishing hooks, lovely feather lei made from now extinct birds, fighting implements, a wonderful replica of the sailing canoe “The Hokule’a”, huge swaths of tapa. There were little gift shops, upstairs rooms, nooks and crannies of displays, artwork painted by the once owner Mr. Bailey. So many things to see and do. I made a note to myself to visit again when I had more time and a camera.

The concert was to be held on the grassy grounds of the museum. It’s an intimate setting seating maybe 100-150 people. White tents had been erected to cover the musicians as well as the audience in case of rain. However, the night was clear, starry and, wondrous to me, balmy.

The price of the ticket was $35 which I later discovered included Kuana’s latest CD–Pi’ilani Maui. I would’ve paid the $35 just for a chance to see Kauana again and was pleasantly surprised to received the signed CD as a bonus. The island of Maui is the featured island on his “island CD set”. CDs with original songs of Hawai’i Island and Ni’ihau have already been released and Maui was the third in a set of 10. There will be a CD for each of the five remaining islands as well as a CD of original oli (chants). The 10th CD? I have no clue.

The audience was decidedly “local”… colorful aloha shirts, lauhala hats with flower lei or feather bands, glittering Hawaiian bracelets, flowers tucked behind ears. Since there was a booth selling beer, wines, soda, etc. This was a 21 and over crowd. One could buy a dinner from a booth selling a selection of food not normally found at a concert. There was pulled BBQ pork bao which is a soft sweet manapua dough folded over delicious pork. There was poke nachos (a preparation of raw fish, seaweed and spices served over chips), dried saimin, brisket and ceviche. Wow! I had the bao which was absolutely mouthwatering and a beer.

The warm up band, Komakakino is made up of a group of young men from Hilo with whom I am quite familiar. The father of one of the band members, Paul Neves, is a talented well known kumu hula from Hilo. He added to the entertainment by dancing to several of the songs. Though the band members are young and a relatively new group, they are quite professional in their musical talents as well as their look–nice matching aloha shirts and shorts.

Komakakino

Komakakino

Kuana came on after most everyone was done with dinner and feeling cheery from the beer and wine. He was in rare form and was hilariously entertaining, joking with the audience. It was a family lu’au atmosphere…a backyard kanakapila! People from the audience got up and danced. Local Maui singers were called up on stage to thunderous applause. Kuana sang a variety of songs from his Maui album as well as songs from previous albums. He told stories about the backgrounds for some of his songs. He also did melodies from the past adding his own style. The crowed sang along to old classics. I nearly cried at his version Pua Carnation…a beautiful rendition of an old standard.

Kuana Torres-Kahele

Kuana Torres-Kahele

I’m so glad I worked on that Friday or I would have missed out on a perfect evening of song and dance.

My Life in Hula–continues

Most hula dancers start at the age of about 4 or 5 and many will stay with the same halau (hula class) throughout their entire lives. Dancers, in Hawai’i have a hula lineage that can date back decades. Many are lucky enough to have a hula master that has gone before a panel of kumu hula, tested rigorously and then given the blessing to teach. Many inherit their skills from their parent and progress through their supervision. Some are alaka’i (leaders) in a halau and become the kumu due to an unforeseen accident or death. Some just love to teach. With my kumu hula I not only learned the dances, but I learned to make all of my own implements…the ipu heke or ipu heke ‘ole, gourd percussion implements; the pahu, a drum made from a coconut tree; ‘uli’uli, a small gourd of la’amea with seeds inside, topped with a platform of colored feathers shaken like a rattle; pu’ili, bamboo that has been slit into 11 or more strips sounding much like a rattle when struck together; ‘ili’ili, stones collected from the beach which are held two in each hand and are clicked together (a little like castanets); ka la’au or sticks that are struck together and the ‘ohe hano ihu or nose flute. There are some more uncommon implements that I have yet to make.

My ipu heke made from two gourds sewn together

My ipu heke made from two gourds sewn together

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The pahu is considered the most sacred of the implements. The steps of the hula are different when done to pahu. The beat has a haunting echo from the past. My pattern of my carving came to me in a dream…whales dancing above the waves, then diving below the surface with only their tales left to see. The pahu took me weeks to carve…with chisel and a mallet.
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My kala’au were left on the big island so I will have to make another set. However, I’ve always made them of strawberry guava wood and I’ve as yet to see a tree here on Maui. Auwe!

My Life Through Hula

I have always loved the hula, but it wasn’t until I was in my forties before I stumbled into a class and developed a passion for the dance. I was at the laundromat when I saw a sign in the window for hula classes manuahi or free. I thought, wow I could use some exercise so I signed up for the class. Somehow it seemed so natural for me. Even the kumu hula was surprised that I had never had hula before. I just took to it. Before long I was taking a couple of times a week. After a few months I was asked to join the ‘olapa class. This is a class the trains you to actually become a dancer. The ‘Olapa is a tree with silvery leaves that move with even the tiniest of breezes so we were to learn to move properly. It was hard. There are hundreds of hula steps and we barely scratched the surface, but keeping them all straight was a challenge. After several months the class was done and in order to be called ‘olapa we had to take a test that lasted almost four hours! We had to demonstrate all our learned steps, we had to know an entrance chant, in Hawaiian of course, we had to know our mele, or dance chant and be able to write it and its translation. Then we had to prepare for our final stage by dancing on the Pa Hula platform on the crater rim of Halema’uma’u. The day arrived, we fasted, we were silent, we dressed with the utmost care in the traditional pa’u which we had fabric painted ourselves and we entered the stage with nervousness, pride, and a feeling of accomplishment. We had an audience of friends, supporters and tourists who happened along and were able to witness a truly Hawaiian event.

We did the ‘oli (chant) all together. Our kumu hula told the story of our mele and we all danced in unison. It was a splendid day. When the hula was over we excitedly received lei from onlookers, we we could talk and cheer and we sang all the way down the mountain to kumu’s house for our graduation party.

By now, I had begun making pa’u (skirts) for many of the new students and now I started making dresses, skirts, blouses, etc. for our performances. I loved being able to give back for all I had received through hula.

Hula is so much more than a dance. It becomes a way of life. Everything you do has a connection to hula. As you learn the ancient protocols, learn about the lives of the past kupuna or elders and gain knowledge of the kings, queens, warriors of the past, you learn respect, gratitude, love, and humbleness. Many of these attributes are carried into your daily life.

Hula has always been the cornerstone of my adult life. It is steadfast, always there to support me through all my trials. I can say my entrance ‘oli at the door and drop my troubles there on the doorstep. I feel safe.

I will continue with my hula story in the near future. Keep tuned in.

getting ready for a kahiko (ancient hula) performance

getting ready for a kahiko (ancient hula) performance

2008--in yellow

2008–in yellow

Feb. 2009

Feb. 2009

every year halau participate in the lei draping of the statue of King Kamehamaha I

every year halau participate in the lei draping of the statue of King Kamehamaha I