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Photos Courtesy of Charles Zukow Associates

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – One can get a vicarious trip to the Hawaiian islands in October, when “NĀ LEI HULU I KA WĒKIU" the Hula award-winning dancing troupe, returns to the PALACE OF FINE ARTS with “The HULA SHOW 2012” giving us the opportunity to listen to Hawaiian music, observe colorful costumes and see the sensuos dances of Hawaii.

In an exlusive interview with the troupe’s Director, PATRICK MAKUAKĀNE a creative force in the Hula world, CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL, talks with him about the troupe he founded in this city twenty-seven years ago.

“NĀ LEI HULU I KA WĒKIU,“ the name of the troupe, means “The Many Feathered Wreaths at the Summit,” says PATRICK, explaining to us that Hawaiians use wreaths on their heads (the summit) and that feathers were considered a treasure in traditional Hawaii.  “The Hawaiians did not have gold or silver,” he adds, “So they used feathers to decorate their headdresses, so by comparing my dancers with feathers it likens my dancers to esteemed and precious jewels.

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L to R Patrick Makuakāne instructing one of his students

 Nobody knows how “HULA" the dance, started.  We know it goes back very far to Polynesia, but we don’t know exactly when it started  in Hawaii or when it separated itself from the other Indonesian dances, because Hawaiians, who come from the Indonesian quarters, moved through Samoa and Tahiti.

“HULA” is described by the Encyclopedia Britannica as “A sensuous mimetic Hawaiian dance performed sitting of standing with ondulating gestures. Originally it was a religious dance performed by trained dancers before a king, to honor their gods, to  praise a Chief or simply to promote fecundity.  It was performed with wristlets and anklets of  whale teeths or bone and “Leis” (interwoven flowers.). “
Wikipedia describes "HULA" as “a dance form accompanied by chant (Oli) that was developed in the Hawaiin islands by the Polynesians who originally settle there.”
Patrick describes it as follows: “HULA" is the national dance of the Hawaiian people and the movements of the "HULA" are closely aligned to the poetry that is chanted or sung. The "HULA" dramatizes them and brings the stories to life. “

“The poetry had a broad range of subjects: from divinity to honoring the chiefs, to love of land, “Aloha Aina,” which is a very common theme. It shows our respect and appreciation to the land, and to everything else. "HULA" covers everything: love, fishing, agriculture, genealogy, eating, drinking, love making. Everything in the human condition.”

How is "HULA" different from other dances? we ask. 

“It draws its inspiration from the natural movements of the environment, of nature” says Patrick. “From the wind, the warmth of the sun, the mountains, all inspire the "HULA" movements and translate them into the "HULA"’s vocabulary.  "The dance movements are languid and fluid because these movements mimic the way nature moves; they also can be aggressive but for the most part, the "HULA" movements are fluid.”

“As a regional dance, "HULA" comes from Hawaii but it is danced in many places so are many different types of "HULAS.”

“There are dances where all the dancers are standing up” he says “and there are dances where the dancers are on their knees. There are dances executed in a reclined position and then, we have a great variety of implements that the dancers use to complement their dance such as rattlers, sticks, stones, there is a diversity of them.”

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Dancers  from Patrick’s troupe "N Ā LEI HULU I KA W ĒKIU"

 “Basically, today's “HULA” is divided into two types: “Hula Kahiko” which is a "HULA" of traditional dances accompanied  by gores or drums (percussion instruments). These dances usually stem from the traditional times so there are sub-categories of this type of dances”

“The other type of HULA,” is “Hula Guana” he adds, “which is a more contemporary form of “HULA” and it is accompanied by singing and musical instruments: Ukulele, guitars and base, but now people use all kinds of intruments to accompany it.”

“The "HULA SHOW 2012," will present 20 world premieres featuring traditional "HULA" y “Hula Mua”, a "HULA" which brings the ancient Hawaiian dance into modern times by setting traditional "HULA's" movements to non-Hawaiian music. This Year’s show has a great variety of dances.”

 “Our opening set of dances is dedicated to King David Kalakaua who  ruled from l874 to l891 and  was a staunch admirer and supporter of the "HULA". Prior to his rule, in l870, the "HULA" suffered severly under missionary influence for about 50 years, but when he ascended to the throne he was adamant to take the "HULA" back into its proper place in the Hawaiian culture. In the show, we are doing a sequence of dances to commemorate the year l886. We are premièrering all these dances. They are all chants which were written specially for Kalakaua.”

Continuing his show description PATRICK adds: “We also have a small section of dances which honor who we call “Haku Mele” which are the ordinary folks who composed their own special chants and songs during the late XIX Century. Many of their compositions are just exquisite. Their favorite topic was love: unrequited, mind braking love. The way they commemorate it is absolutely beautiful.”

“ I am calling the other set of dances “The Little Black Dress Hula” he says "because the music is sort of jazzy, and some of the songs in this part of the show are very modern, they are not Hawaiian at all.”  These sort of things is what makes a company unique.”

“Included in the show are also the sort of dances that we describe with the term “Hula Mua” that for me is the HULAS that use traditional dance movements  combined with modern music which is not Hawaiian. In the past and present we have used everything from Pop music, electronics, Jazz, and a huge mixture of musical genres. The word “Mua” has an interesting meaning, because it could mean something from the past or something that is ahead in the future, so what it means to me is a dance that comes from the past and moves into the future."

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Patrick Makuakani dancing

PATRICK MAKUAKĀNI  who was born in Oahu the main Hawaiian island is both a dancer and a well known Hula instructor in S.F. This year his school has over 300 students. He was been recognized in the community several times and has won several awards, among them the KGO-TV 1998 “Profiles in Excellence,  the Goldie Award from the Bay Guardian for Outstanding Bay Area Artist in 2003, and a Creative Work Fund Grant for a new piece by the S.F. Ethnic Dance Festival in 2008, to name a few.

"My company has been here for 27 years" says PATRICK, "and I feel really comfortable with being a Hawaiian man preserving my culture in San Francisco, because San Francisco is a wonderful place for any artist."

“THE HULA SHOW 2012” will be presented at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco on Sat October 20 at 8pm, Sunday October 21 at 3pm, Friday, October 26 at 8 pm, Saturday, October 27 at 8pm and Sunday October 28 at 3pm. An special matinee for children will take place on Sunday October 28 at 12 noon (for an hour show) Tickets may be purchased through City Box Office at 415-392-4400 or at or locations.

Behind the Scenes at Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu

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