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Arts and Culture

Hula in Waikoloa: History, Movement, & Culture

As the new year began, I found myself joining a new exciting real estate brokerage firm: Hawaii Life. As I worked through their marketing recommendations, I came across a memo that said, “Blogging is a suggested means to market yourself.” What? What is blogging, I asked? If you haven’t googled blogging, perhaps you should take a moment, don’t worry I’ll wait, and see how many thousands of articles there are about blogging.

According to the blogging websites I visited, step number one was to find your passion. Okay, my passion. This shouldn’t be hard. Right? Well, hula and Waikoloa came to mind rather quickly, so for my first blog, I’ve decided to write about my hula journey and where I live, Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Entrance to Waikoloa Village

Introduction to Hula

When I first arrived on the Big Island in 2013, I knew I wanted to connect with other women and dance hula. Where do I find a halau? Where do I begin?…. (almost like this blog). I saw a hula halau (group) performing at the Queens Marketplace located in the Waikoloa Resort area. I approached a local woman and asked her a series of questions about hula. Lo and behold, she turned out to be the Kumu’s sister and lessons were taught right in Waikoloa. Did I mention, I live in Waikoloa? What are the chances? So, hula began and so did my new life in Waikoloa.

Hula – More than Just a Dance

Being a professional dancer most of my life, I thought hula would be gentle to my aging body, unlike the rigors of ballet and other genres of dance. I was right for the most part, but hula is so much more than a dance class. It’s an expressive interpretation of Hawaiian history all bundled together with music, movement, instruments, chants, language, pa’u skirts, and native plants that tell stories about the Hawaiian culture. The “mana” or energy is respected and cherished the minute you walk into class. It’s hard to describe. It’s spiritual in a sense, almost sacred, calming, because you are learning about the past and traditions, from a Kumu. The Kumu (or teacher) is highly regarded and is steeped in tradition and family. I’m fortunate and honored to have two Kumus. Maybe I’m feeling ancient in my years, but I’ve never felt such a soulful connection in a tap or jazz class before.

Kumu Kapu from Aulani’s Hula Halau

Hawaiian Music

Have you ever listened to Hawaiian music? The lyrics are all about the beauty of the land (the aina), nature, and the people. It’s a gentle reminder to cherish life and people each and every day. Not a negative word that I can recall. The language is exotic and is starting to make sense, as long as I pay attention. My Kumu always asks me, “Phyllis, are you smelling, seeing or hearing…….? (I’m still working on all that). The melodies are hypnotic and the dresses and costumes stunningly beautiful. I was hooked when I took my first hula class back in 2013. In fact, it was rather comical because my Kumu thought I was just a tourist who kept coming back each and every week. It’s been over six years since I began my journey in hula and I love it.

Aulani’s Hula Halau performing at Queens Market Place

Waikoloa Village

I also live in Waikoloa Village. It’s a small community north of Kona, but it is very similar to hula. We’re all family. Hula is family. We’re connected. In our Halau and neighborhood, we celebrate life together: weddings, graduations, and births to name a few. We make our implements together and share quality time together in our Halau. My Waikoloa neighbors share their fruits and veggies or work together on projects. We take care of one another. At first I thought, this is not what I wanted, but I was wrong. It’s wonderful to walk in to the local bank or grocery store and the bank teller doesn’t ask for your ID or the cashier runs and gets an extra coupon for the one you lost. To belong to a group or to become involved in your neighborhood, is a sure way to feel connected.

Ohana in Waikoloa

My neighbors are the best on the island. Okay, I might be a bit biased, but there’s such a sense of ohana (family) within our neighborhood. There’s a reason someone would choose Waikoloa, just like I chose my hula halau. It just feels right. We can’t compete with Hilo or Kona (and perhaps we shouldn’t), but we can offer a simpler lifestyle and a sense of community. If anyone reading my blog needs more information on living in Waikoloa or hula, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I have a feeling my next blog will be about gardening.

Loretta, Lynn, Kumu Aulani, Auntie Alice and Phyllis May Day 2019

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Julie Keller

May 23, 2019

I love this blog!! Thank you for sharing your experience – it gave me chicken skin when I read this blog. Keep writing, you’re a great blogger, and you humbly show your understanding and respect for the art of hula and the culture!

Jim DeVille

May 23, 2019

Love it! I can so relate. I started my hula journey 2 years ago, and it felt like hula chose me. We had a wonderful May Day concert this year on Kauai. I was a ballet dancer in my younger days, but nothing ever like hula as you wrote. So blessed to be on this journey. Thanks for sharing your story.

Phyllis Klicker

May 23, 2019

Mahalo Jim for your comments. I too felt like hula chose me, especially this Halau. I am so grateful for all of the dancers and musicians that I have met along the way. The knowledge and experience gained is beyond any of my wildest dreams. Isn’t it wonderful we don’t have to worry about turnouts any more, but we still have to bend. Aloha>

Monica Martines

May 24, 2019

This is so timely as I’ve been contemplating restarting my hula career. Well, “career” is a stretch; I really only dabbled in it over a decade ago. It started off as exercise with a group of my girlfriends and we had the best time. Mostly laughing at mistakes we made; but, it was a bonding experience that I will never forget.

I was reading this great article and as I scrolled down I noticed Alice who is one of my aquafitness mates. So exciting to see her beautiful face! I will have to chat with her about the halau next week when I see her next.

In any event, I would love to speak with you about possibly joining this halau if there are any openings. I’m a beginner and very rusty in my dance skills; but, I’m a quick learner and can commit for getting tons of Vitamin F (fun).

Mahalo for this great article.

Phyllis Klicker

May 25, 2019

Aloha Monica, Thank you for your comments. Yes, Auntie Alice is a beautiful soul and yes, there are plenty of openings. The women are so awesome, we’d love for you to join. Many of the women have never danced hula before, so you’ll be fine. And finally, yes at our last performance we tried to dance a song that we had just learned and had so much fun trying to remember it. Vitamin F (fun) was in abundance while we were all having senior moments. If you’d like to call or email me, I can give you the days and times. Aloha

Linda Hussey

May 26, 2019

Beautiful article Phyllis. It’s obvious that hula is something that has touched you deeply. Mahalo for sharing.

Phyllis Klicker

May 28, 2019

Aloha Linda,
Thank you so much for leaving a comment for me. Yes, I’m still dancing hula and loving it. Still trying to figure out if I’m listening, smelling ,seeing etc…… but I’m sure one of these days this kupuna will figure it all out. Aloha

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