What's In A Name?
While at the Hula Intensive on Moloka'i last December Fern told us about the wonderful Hula Retreat to be held on Kauai at the Outrigger's Kauai Beach Resort in February. It had been held for the past two years and was a rare opportunity to attend workshops presented by Kumu Hula (hula teachers) from all of the islands. People came from around the Islands to attend and perform.
Of course the FUDS (fears, uncertainties, doubts and stresses) marched out and spread their influence. The promise of a better understanding of Hula and the participating Kumu Hula won out in the battle of ideas.
As I made the telephone call to make reservations for Lois & myself the FUDS returned with the instructions to make the check payable to E Pili Kakou I Ho'okahi Lahui. The soft easy flow of Hawaiian vowels and consonants reminded me of my desire to speak and understand this language. The speaker spelled it out for me and the translation is "Lets join together as one body of people."
The day arrived and we joined some 400 other pre-registrants with workshops undesignated trying to get the instructors of our choices. We had decided to experience instructors we didn't know so as to enrich the experience. The crowd was huge. The waiting long. The ease of all the participants in line awaiting completion of registration was enlightening. None of the worry of other registration lines we had experienced elsewhere. Everyone here was happy and expectant. We got to understand the intent of the name " E Pili Kakou I Hookahi Lahui ".... " Lets join together as one body of people" in an effort to promote, share, and perpetuate Hawaii's rich culture and heritage by sustaining and further educating all ages who are practitioners of the hula art form.
While people watching on the side of the ballroom we noticed the warm meetings as people saw and greeted each other with aloha and hugs. The care for each other was so very evident. Smiles were everywhere; the laughter melodious and full. The members of the E Pili Kakou I Hookahi Lahui Halau were dressed in outstanding tee shirts that facilitated your quickly asking someone the question that suddenly formed within you. Their care in seeing to your answers was impressive.
The program started with a pule (prayer) and joined hands. The soft Hawaiian words were felt when not understood by those of us who knew not while those who did were equally soothed. As the pule ended and hugs were exchanged with those next to us the Kumu Hula were introduced after ritual care to acknowledge those here and those who made it possible in one's genealogy to be here. The Hawaiian language held sway here. Those who understood laughed and clapped. We wished and made resolutions to learn more and learn more quickly. The essence was felt. The care of each instructor was felt. The Hawaiian gave way to English and we were joined as teachers expressed their own FUDS and gave assurances that all were welcomed into this experience of learning and community.
Our first workshop was given by the Lim Family of the Big Island. We were encouraged to learn the language again as we saw the fluency of the Japanese husband who in one year was speaking like a native. We noticed the fluidity of six members of a Halau who moved as one in front of us during the lesson. When I think of this particular hula step I still see and feel the space occupied by those six moving as easily as if they were tied together. The step was brought into my body and my step became their step. Truly, hula is life and we learn it by doing and watching.
Our second workshop was a Talk-Story session with Kumu John Kaimikaua from Moloka'i who presented a video of his Halau's work at Kahana on Moloka'i. His story was fascinating with an account of his learning as a young man and the starting of his Halau 23 years ago to perpetuate the learning given into his care. The attention to detail and the expression of the Halau's performance of ritual was clearly evident in the video. We were to see more of this evidence the following week when John brought 24 of his male and female dancers to Lihue for an hour and a half performance for the people of Kaua'i.
Our third workshop was Kahiko Hula (ancient style) while sitting with 'uli'uli (rattles covered with feathers). Kumu Moses Crabb warned everyone that this was strenuous and the session should be avoided (mostly because there were only 15 rattles for over 60 registrants. Yet this kind and generous teacher did all he could to make everyone feel special as he conducted his class. I chose to chant for one of the participants as I doubted my strength to do this type of dance. In the end I was sure I could and should have done it. Where do these fears come from but from within ourselves? I learned the chant. I learned the moves. I didn't do the dance. What a missed opportunity. I will do it at the next opportunity.
Our final workshop was ancient chanting. We were to learn a chant from hearing it and repeating it back in both word and tone. The first two lines were unintelligible but sounded like something I could give back. We were told to learn it in the next five minutes. What! Five Minutes! We did it! We were told that it was possible and we did it. During the next hour and a half we heard and repeated and refined the intonation of a chant we had never heard before and could give it back as required. Talk about learning and memorization. What an experience! Wait until we would be called upon to do it again!
Each evening after dinner we had a performance by the workshop participants of each Kumu Hula to show the efforts of those who had participated. We danced, we sang, we chanted. We did that difficult chant twice. We were told that the first time was just practice. The second time was for real! And was it ever for real! The applause was rich and long. We had accomplished a wonderful thing!
The thought came to me that I wanted to know the name of our own Halau; the name given to Aloha International's dancers. Fern had reeled it off once or twice before but it didn't take in my memory. A question to Fern and Susan brought back "Halau Hula Na Lei Kupua O Kaua'i." The Hula School of the Dancing Shamans of Kauai. And with it the realization of the need to create the symbol of Dancing Leis on the image of Honu the Turtle, perhaps, to represent all our Shamans around the world united through the Hula; the Hula is life!
The time for leave-taking came and as we walked through the ballroom to return home we were greeted by name and hugged time and time again by those many, many wonderful people who had come into our lives as we worked our way through this session of workshops. People saw us from across the table and made their way around to say Aloha! The Spirit of Aloha was fully enveloping us all who had come together to give and receive.
"E Pili Kakou I Hookahi Lahui ".... " Lets join together as one body of people." What's in a name? Life is in the name.
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Copyright by Aloha International 2001