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Sharing "hula" spirit

by Radasha Ho'ohuli, staff writer


Hula is an ancient style of dance native to the islanders of Hawai‘i and was once only performed in Hawai‘i. Today the dance can be witnessed all around the world. Hula is an experience of sharing, whether you are a kumu hula, or teacher of hula, a professional hula dancer, or a visitor to Hawai‘i who learned to dance the hula while here. It doesn’t matter how one learns hula or where one experiences its performance. What counts is that it is being shared.

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Hula allows many people to feel connected to Hawai‘i, whether they have been here or just want to visit. In Japan, the wish to be connected to Hawai‘i is so passionate that many Japanese, especially women, take personal lessons in order to learn the art of hula. Many of them are so good they dance as though they were typical local Hawaiian women, who had danced hula for generations.

For local hula dancers, being able to travel to Japan to witness the amazement and excitement of the Japanese is another adventure in itself. On Sept. 5, with three other dancers, I left Honolulu on a flight to Narita airport. We had an invitation to sing and dance at the Hakone Ohan Hotel in Hakone, Japan. When we arrived in Japan, we were treated with the care and compassion one would expect due to a king or queen. The people are professional and business-like, as well as respectful and genuine.
Sponsors and hosts were especially helpful. Our host, a man well—known in the Hawaiian entertainment community, was Mr. Ariga. He has taken numerous Hawaiian groups to Japan to share a variety of songs and dances. He and his assistant, Kako, met us at the airport, right outside of the baggage claim, so that we didn’t get lost amongst all the hustle and bustle. They took care of our transportation, hotel room, and meals (sometimes even treating us to fine dining).
The people of Japan are thoughtful about personal wants and needs. Our hosts were no exception. They made sure they did all they could to ensure that our visit was a pleasure and not all hard work. It is customary for the Japanese to bow to show respect. When we arrived to our hotel, they bowed. When we walked into the hotel, they bowed. When we would leave for the day, they bowed. And, at the end of our fun trip, when saying our final farewells, they bowed. The bowing episodes lasted all the way to the end of the road, until we were completely out of sight.
So, what is it like to share the hula in a place where people are already kind, generous, respectful, considerate, and giving? Many Hawaiian entertainers are not surprised, when they arrive for a concert, to find their dressing rooms full of food, drinks, and omiage. Regularly hosts and sponsors go above and beyond western courtesy to ensure a relaxing wait.
When performing the hula, our troop felt a warm appreciation and joy from the audience. They become involved, clapping their hands to the music, swaying from side to side to the rhythm, or they were simply mesmerized by a beautiful hula dancer. At the close of the concert, “Hawai‘i Aloha” was sung, the whole audience sang along, as they too all knew the song.
And, just when we thought that everything was done, still more presents and flowers arrived at our dressing room to thank us for our wonderful performance and for sharing the beauty of the hula.


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