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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Crabs, Cowboys and Kuleana

Last Sunday Hubby and I dropped The Kiddies off at their grandparents' house and went to see Na Lei Hulu perform at The Palace of Fine Arts.



Great show on the whole, but to me there were two dances that stood out. The first was He Mele
Pāpa’i, A Song for the Great Crab. This particular hula was just a part of a suite of hulas written by Puakea Nogelmeier and dedicated to Kapalakiko, or San Francisco. If one can scurry in hula, nā kane certainly succeeded. The way they moved their "claws" and moved their feet across the dance floor perfectly mimicked a group (scuttle? hermitage? clutch?) of crabs. I only wish I had the vocabulary to explain to you how intricate and well choreographed it was.
The second hula was danced to a song called Nā Vaqueros by Kuana Torres Kahele off his CD Kaunaloa. First, I loved the way the Spanish and the Hawaiian languages intertwined. It took a second to register that I was looking at two different languages ("Nā" being Hawaiian a plural indicator of a direct object and "Vaqueros" being Spanish for, in simple terms, a cowboy) when I read it in the show's program. My familiarity with hearing the Hawaiian language being spoken in actual speech as well as song is almost as well cultivated with my familiarity with Spanish. Not that I speak Spanish. I mean, I could get by, which is more than I can with Hawaiian. The point I'm trying to make, I guess is that I'm used to hearing both languages so much that I had to think when it came time to distinguish between the languages in the song. Needless to say I really liked the song, and don't tell Hubby, but I purchased it on itunes. The best part about hearing the song was watching the hula that went with it. Three beautiful wahine danced this number. The way they moved together was flawless. It was by far the best hula of the whole show.
So last night Hubby and I were talking about the show and he posed an interesting question. He asked me what would happen if someone other than a member of  Na Lei Hulu danced the hulas in the show. I wondered what he meant. I don't know if it's happened with great frequency, but Kumu could certainly teach us any dance that he's created for the performances if he chooses. They're his dances. They're his to teach. I'm guessing that he could also teach us any dance that he's learned from his Kumus. He's certainly done that. And just as people sample music and turns of phrase, I'm certain that there are many moves in many hula dances where bits and pieces of dances have been adopted or repurposed. Also, I'm sure there are signature moves that one learns. In fact, I know that to be true. We've learned dances before where when we get to the end Kumu tells us the dance ends with "auntie's ha'ina" and the whole class knows what that means.
I think what Hubby was really getting at, though, is it OK if someone had say, videotaped a dance from a show they saw, learned the dance, then taught it to other people? My guess is that it's probably happened, but that it's really really bad form. It's not something that any honorable person would do. Doing so would probably ruin your reputation as a hula teacher, or a student of hula. Not to mention the bajillion negative aloha points it would give you. On a smaller scale, though, I'm guessing it's not even OK for me to teach a hula dance. I may know my halau's version of Puamana or Kawika inside and out, but I'm a student. It's not my kuleana to teach, only to learn. 

I guess the answer to Hubby's question boils down to this: if it's not yours, it's not yours to share.

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