Hawaiian Music and Dance enriches youth!

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Aloha from Sonoma Mountain Elementary School in Petaluma!



This is the first time that the school has brought Hawaiian Cultural Arts to their students and we’re having a BLAST! I’m working with Keiki (children) in the Kindergarten, First and Second grade classes and despite the age differences, they’re all really moving with intention and joy as I teach them a few Hula’s that incorporate using their voices in chanting, playing a Hawaiian musical instrument and dancing.
It’s no secret that every student’s favorite Hula is a song from the movie blockbuster, Lilo and Stitch. The Mele (song) and Hula (dance) tells a story of Hawai’is last King, David La’amea Kamanakaupu’u Kauliluaikeanu Mahinulani Nalo’ia’ehuokalani Lumialani Kalakaua…the kids ask me to say his full name at least once a week, and I love seeing their eyes get huge and light up when I do. The title of the song for King Kalakaua is He Mele Inoa No Lilo. So many of the kids went home after our first day of lessons and watched the Lilo and Stitch movie and told me that when the song came on, they jumped up and danced what they had learned. How great is that?!
They now tell me that they practice it at home “all the time” and they even dance it for their family and friends.
Having fun with the Kala'au (sticks)

Having fun with the Kala’au (sticks)

That just made my heart smile! The Hawaiian Culture lives on, in the homes of Petaluma, and in the hearts of many. At this point, we’re nearing the end of our 10 week program, which culminates with a school performance on May 2nd. The kids are getting really excited, and in all the classes yesterday I could see and feel a definite focus and effort being put into their dances and chants. The steps that they’ve learned, a koholo, ‘ami and ku’i are vibrant and more precise, and their instrument playing is really getting into synch! They’ve learned to play the ipu (a gourd drum), kala’au (rhythmic sticks made from guava wood), ‘ili’ili (smooth ocean rocks) and the ‘ukulele. It’s a short time frame to teach a whole song on the ‘ukulele to total beginners, but they’re hanging in there and we actually made it happen yesterday! I’m totally enjoying my time with the keiki and at the school.
The sacred cliff at Kilauea Volcano

The sacred cliff at Kilauea Volcano

At the beginning and end of each class every week, there’s always a handful of kids that run up to greet me with a hug or to say goodbye with a hug…without knowing it, they’re perpetuating a Hawaiian Cultural practice that has been a part of our way of life for hundreds of years. It’s the sharing of Aloha. To witness and experience this through the teachings of this Hawaiian Music and Dance program, is what it’s all about for me as a Kumu Hula, or Hula Teacher because I know that my culture’s values and teachings have made an imprint on these keiki’s lives. I am filled with gratitude for Youth In Arts and Sonoma Mountain Elementary for this opportunity! Mahalo a nui loa…profoundly grateful and deeply touched.
Aloha, Kumu Hula Shawna Alapa’i

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