The Evolving Modern Art Of Hula

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - January 12, 2011
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Halau Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu takes hula in an exciting new direction

San Francisco kumu hula Patrick Makuakane is bringing his 40-person troupe to Hawaii Theatre Feb. 4 and 5 to mark the 25th anniversary of his Halau Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu. It’s one of the rare events where I’d stand in a long line to make sure I got a good seat.

Makuakane is from Kaimuki (small-kid time) and a Saint Louis School grad who learned hula from Mae Stein, John Keola Lake and Robert Cazimero. He left here at 23 to immerse himself in the Bay City’s artistic life.

For me, Makuakane and another West Coast kumu, Mark Ho’omalu, are leading the exciting new direction of hula. Not all agree. Some think they’re way too far out and not of the Merrie Monarch’s time.

Makuakane tells me: “Hula is one of the most expressive forms of art.

Why does it have to be limited to Hawaiian music? I like to marry it to whatever music I love.” So he choreographed a Hare Krishna Hula, one to I Left My Heart in San Francisco, and another to The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.

“Actually,” he tells me, “I don’t get a lot of flak from traditionalists. I don’t turn traditional chants and stuff on their head. But do people really understand the words in Hawaiian music? Not many. In my hula mua (evolving), they know when a song is about romance. They know all the words.”

Makuakane’s never been invited to Merrie Monarch, and he’s OK with that: “You get to dance for something like what, five minutes? That’s not long enough to show off what you can do.”

The San Francisco area has plenty of that. He does six shows yearly at the Palace of Fine Arts, as well as annual appearances at the Ethnic Dance Festival. His shows come with videos, projections, odd lighting and recorded music. They are truly shows!

He has had his people in mufti mingle in crowded downtown venues, then on a signal they break out in hula on the street - a kind of ambush by hula dancers. Might horrify some Hawaii kumu, but Makuakane stresses that he is grounded in hula fundamentals while developing new hula with modern music “to give a whole new dimension to the poetry of hula.”

It should be a show you won’t want to miss.


three star

The majority seems to say thumbs down on casino or dinner-cruise gambling for Hawaii. How about some kind of lottery?

Gov. Neil Abercrombie is inclined that way, perhaps with a combo goal to give out winnings and offer Hawaii vacations as a way to get Mainlanders and even foreigners to buy tickets. We need that outside lure because we’re too small to make a cash lure on our own tickets.

I favor a couple of casinos and dinner-cruise gaming, but I know when I’m outnumbered and need a Plan B.

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