POST-MERRIE MONARCH

As many of you know I have an online Etsy shop called Sew Me Hawaii. And though I started this blog to promote my shop, it took off with a mind of its own. Unfortunately, my shop has kept me so busy that the blog has suffered. I want to thank those that have hung in with me through all my writing absences.

This past couple of months has been a blur of activity! Not only have I been sewing for those participating in the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival performances, many of the Mainland halau are gearing up for their Spring Fests, May Day Programs, etc. So, Iʻve been locked in my “sewing studio” for hours on end. However, Merrie Monarch is now over and maybe things will get back to normal. I do love this week of hula. I try to go to as many of the performances as possible. I did have the opportunity to dance with my group in downtown Hilo, at the Moʻuhea Bandstand for the visitors who are in town. We had 14 mele in an hour…whew! That was a lot of hula to remember! But, it was fun. The audience was very receptive.

We also had a performance at the Life Care Center where this photo was taken (Iʻm on the far left). We dressed for spring. Our downtown performance was in our beautiful costumes, but I donʻt seem to have any photos. Maybe next time.

Merrie Monarch Hula Festival is always an inspiration for any hula dancer whether it be the competition performances or the many displays of hula all around town. One particular performance stood out for me. A halau was dancing on the lawn of the Grand Naniloa Hotel and they danced to Ka Lehua i Milia. It is a beautiful mele and brought back memories of when I danced on this same lawn doing a solo to this same song, many years ago. Later, at home, I started to remember the choreography of long ago and have now reprised it for maybe a future performance. My own halau competed this year and were amazing. My Kumu Hula is so creative and the hula is like no other. We seldom win, as the judges prefer the traditional hula, but Uncle Johnny doesnʻt seem to mind, he just loves sharing his manaʻo. The halau will assuredly be show on YouTube. Just look up Johhny Lum Ho Merrie Monarch 2018. It is worth the effort to find!

Now that MM is pau, I will be concentrating on my other future performance in line-dancing. Iʻve added another class, intermediate-advanced so now Iʻm line dancing 3 times a week and hula 2 times, both on one day, so I still have Wednesdays free! We are going to Oʻahu in June so are practicing our two display dances as well as the 60 other group dances. This is always fun. One of our dances is a hip-hop style and the other is a nightclub style. We will be in costume so I will try and get photos of that.

Well, Iʻve still got work to do, so Iʻm off. Keep on keepinʻ on.

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Dancing My Way Through Life and Other Fun…

These past few months have been way too busy for me. I had three large orders in a row, each with a performance deadline, so my stress level seemed to stay up in the sky for some time. And, to top it off I added an intermediate/advance line-dance class to my already full menu of dance–twice a week hula, thrice a week line-dance. I’ve also had some extra practices for hula performances.

Last Wednesday we danced for the elders at the Life Care Center. We’ve been invited to dance there once a month to give the residents a little something extra in their day. It’s always fun and they are so appreciative. This time I was asked if I would like to dance a solo. This is something I don’t normally do and I think other than my uniki to alaka’i many many years ago, it was my first time. I chose a beautiful song I had learned when on Maui. On Monday, at practice, the downloaded music played and after the first verse all of a sudden a verse I had never heard before came on. Yikes! We had danced to a different artist on Maui. The one I had described wasn’t available, so in a couple of days I had to choreograph the new verse, learn it, and then REMEMBER it, all of which I managed to do. All in all my performance went very well. I can’t say that for some of the other dances. One dance I do with one other girl didn’t quite have the beginning we had hoped for. We’ve always had troubled deciding when to start She has always relied on me to hear the subtle differences…but I didnʻt this time. While the first verse started, without our usual vamp, we stood facing each other trying to decide how to get started. We finally, after a few false starts got it together and as our hālau members cheered we finished the dance. Then a couple of mele later we were dancing a fun Tahitian number. I knew the third verse well, but as I looked down the line, the other front row girls obviously didnʻt and were doing movements all out of order. In order for me to look like I didnʻt know what I was doing, I sort of followed their lead until we all got back on track. Itʻs a good thing most of the audience had no idea and this dance was followed up by another soloist who just charmed them back into attention.

Yesterday was a full day. I marched in the Women’s March and was so proud of Hilo and such a marvelous turn-out. Then I went to a wonderful Ho’ike (fundraising show) for a local hālau. The program line up was spectacular, the prizes for the many drawings were equally spectacular and the whole program moved along without any delays, beginning and ending on time. This is relatively new in Hilo as we run on “Aloha Time”. I followed this fun activity with line dancing at the Eagles clubhouse that evening where all my fellow line dancers made a big deal about my birthday which is actually tomorrow. I went to bed thoroughly tired, but sated. Today at church, I was sung to and then a friend took me out to lunch. Tomorrow another friend is taking me out to lunch, so I will have had three days of celebration! I may want to turn 73 again!

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!

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

Finally something for my Etsy shop…

Because I do so much custom work, I’ve not had a lot of extra time to work on things for the shop and my inventory is dismally low. So, this past couple of days I’ve been working on remedying that. I spent one whole day just cutting, folding, measuring and pinning so when I was ready, everything else would be ready. That really helped as the next day I discovered I had finished a couple of projects earlier than anticipated. So, I threaded my sewing machine and went to work. I am happy with the colorful results.   I love

A pa'u for an older girl...a bolder print in a vibrant royal purple
A pa’u for an older girl…a bolder print in a vibrant royal purple

sewing hula pa’u for keiki (children). Next I would like to make some aloha shirts for boys or men. And, maybe some more adult pa’u. Are we having fun yet? Yes, we are!

This skirt is meant for a 'tween or teen. I love the retro-looking print.
This skirt is meant for a ‘tween or teen. I love the retro-looking print.
This bright little pa'u is perfect for a new dancer. She certainly won't get lost in the crowd!
This bright little pa’u is perfect for a new dancer. She certainly won’t get lost in the crowd!
This little pa'u is the color of Ho'okipa Beach.
This little pa’u is the color of Ho’okipa Beach.