Written by YIA Mentor Artist Shawna Alapa’i
From September to November 2014, Harding Elementary 4th and 5th graders learned authentic Hula, including history, cultural practices, arts and crafts and vocalizing–in addition to dancing. The kids were all so enthusiastic throughout the classrooms, and fully participated in everything. They asked really thoughtful questions about the history and even taught ME something: lava is called lava only when it’s above ground, otherwise it’s called magma! I probably learned this as a young girl, but in Hula, we refer to it all as lava, so I totally forgot! They loved that I told them they taught me this…LOL!
Our program consisted of learning five dance and chant pieces. Their vocalizing was really impressive, especially from one of the boys, who knew how to use his diaphragm to belt out the chant. It was solid! We danced about Pele, known as the Volcano Goddess, and her migration with family members from Tahiti to Hawai’i, aboard great double-hulled canoes. I explained the metaphoric aspect of this Pele form, and how it relates to the magma moving throughout the earth, which is a great journey as well! Then we danced the popular Lilo and Stitch theme song and another ancient chant. This chant used our bodies as the percussion instrument while we gestured and chanted. Rounding out our learning, we began and ended with dances specifically used for an entrance and exit in a formal performance. These two dances depicted journeying in canoes. It was a great experience working with the Harding Elementary School and I look forward more work in the future.
This Hula residency is part of Youth in Arts “Arts Unite Us” program at Harding Elementary, where we are serving all of the students with visual and performing arts programs focused on inclusion, accessibility and appreciating differences. Thanks to the Thomas Long Foundation for generously funding this program.