Aloha! I'm Kauila. I'm Native Hawaiian, born and raised on the island of O'ahu, Hawai'i, but now I live in Los Angeles, California. I am Kumu Hula [hula teacher] at Halau Kauilanuimakehaikalani. I opened my Halau [hula school] August 21, 2012 with only 10 students. It's a small start but I am happy to take it one hula step at a time. I teach traditional hula, chant, Hawaiian culture & language at my Halau in Los Angeles. The mission of our halau is to expand the reach of Hawaiian culture and traditions through dance and Aloha.
In a year, Halau Kauilanuimakehaikalani is entering their first hula competition at the 8th Annual George Na'ope Hula Festival in Sacramento, CA., July 2014. It's amazing for me because I took hula workshops from Uncle George Na'ope when I was 13 years-old so it is an honor to be invited to present my Halau at a festival in his name. This is huge for me and for my Halau because we didn't plan on entering competitions, that wasn't the original plan. We wanted to share and grow, one student at a time. Then I realized I needed to put my Halau on the map in Southern California. I didn't know how that was going to happen, we were brand new and small. Then we got invited to the competition and suddenly it feels like I have come full circle and I'm back to my beginnings and my students get to come on that journey with me.
Next week we are invited to Glasgow, Scotland to perform hula at their Merchant City Festival and share our Aloha. As a gift back to the Glasgow community, I will be teaching a traditional hula workshop to their dance academy so a little bit of Hawai'i will remain when we return home. I am grateful to share this workshop and plant the seeds of Hawaiian culture in a distant land that our Hawaiian royalty have visited in the 1800's.
We are a very small Halau and we need money to grow. So I started a t-shirt project as a means to create an ongoing fundraising tool for my dancers and our Halau vision. These funny shirts are symbolic jokes and island comments we use also in the Hula world. The famous KNOCK! KNOCK! Who's there... MeMAHU! joke from our childhood was the inspiration that launched this project. It happened in a snap during a casual conversation and I couldn't shake it out of my mind. I HAD TO DO IT! I created our first "KNOCK! KNOCK!" t-shirt design, and then our 2nd design CHEEEEEEERING!!! It was popping up everywhere at the 50th Merrie Monarch Hula Festival this past April. The offcial launch for our t-shirts will be at the 7th George Na'ope Festival where we ordered a special vendors table to present our shirt designs.
We are ready to compete in less than a month and we would love your Aloha and support to get these shirts made and help our Halau get to the competition in style. Travel, hotel, food, costumes, leis, musicians, etc -- it all adds up fast and we started fundraising here to get our shirts produced. In just a few months, we have raised $7,500.00, so far which has helped fund the first test/prototypes of our t-shirts to get the word out at the 50th Merrie Monarch Hula Festival that helped promote MeMAHU! and our Halau.
Hula has been in my family for generations and I grew up with hula dancers, Hawaiian music and lei vending around me all my life. My Mother, "Kawelo" was a hula dancer & chanter and she brought me into the Hula world, starting my hula training at 12 years of age with Aunty Ho'akalei Kamau'u & Aunty Edith Kawelohea McKinzie. They were my first Kumu. In August 2009 I had my 'Uniki, a protocol graduation ceremony where I finally earned my Kumu Hula status from my Kumu Keolahou Hinau who had his 'uniki under Kumu Keli'i Tau'a who 'uniki'd under Maiki Aiu in the Papa Lehua first graduate class. It took me 38 years to get here but it is perfect timing for me! I've been dancing hula for 42 years.
My students come from all walks of life and range from age 21 to 45. 85% of them have never danced hula before and some have never seen it danced before they came to me. The other 15% have been away from hula for a long time and are reconnecting to their hula and culture. It's a very special time for us as they have a new desire and broader perspective about their Hula journey and they have come to me to help them. I am grateful and honored to care for them, teach them and also grow with them.
One of the tough realities of having a hula school away from Hawai'i is my students have no real reference points when doing homework on their dances and songs. No Hawaiian waterfalls, Hawaiian beaches or Hawaiian forests they can visit to draw inspiration from when telling their hula stories. They don't live in Hawai'i so all of this is not right outside their door. Many of them have never made a lei or hula skirt to wear. They need to have those experiences in Hawai'i to expand their knowledge to project these images in the poetry of their hula. They will need to travel to Hawai'i soon so they have that experience. I want that for them because this is what they need to be good hula dancers. To plug-in, connect. They need to see, touch, smell, taste and feel the spirit of Hula, face-to-face. They need that connection and experiences to relate to the stories they are telling. We have a long journey ahead.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read about us and helping Halau Kauilanuimakehaikalani keep our Hawaiian culture alive with HULA! Mahalo for your time and Aloha! Kumu Kauila
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