Kahekili: A hula drama about Maui’s paramount chief

Hokulani Holt Pedilla’s production of “Kahekili,” an original hula drama about Maui chief Kahekilinuiahumanu is coming to the Kaua‘i Community College Performing Arts Theater tomorrow.

“Kahekili” takes the audience into pre-contact Hawai‘i in an episodic program rich with Hawaiian chants, kahiko (traditional hula), dramatic interpretation, Hawaiian martial arts (lua) and storytelling. Moses Goods narrates the tale.

“We will exhibit the life and times, which was primarily late 1700s Hawai‘i, just as contact is being made,” Holt Pedilla said.

Pedilla not only produced the show, but also acts as artistic director and choreographer.

The chants and dances in “Kahekili” follow the traditional stylings as they are believed to have existed during his lifetime.

“What you will see are various ceremonies and cultural practices people might not have seen before: marriages and behaviors associated with mana — for the ali‘i class there were rules that governed how people interacted with them because of their mana,” Pedilla said.

“Kahekili” was first produced by Pedilla in 1997. It was performed three times, then resurrected in 2007. Through a national competition “Kahekili” was selected to be included in the National Endowment for the Arts’ initiative, “American Masterpieces: Dance.” Of the 14 dance companies in the inaugural round, “Kahekili” was the only project from Hawai‘i and the only ethnic dance production chosen. Halau Pa‘u O Hi‘iaka is in the company of other great American dance companies selected such as Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor and Martha Graham.

Kaua‘i is the last of the islands to witness this performance.

“We’re going to Germany in November,” she said. “And we have a request to go to Japan next year.”

The number one objective for the producer is education. Tonight there is a free community outreach discussion at Island School Main Hall. Pedilla will be accompanied by five performers to give a demonstration and discussion of the program for Saturday.

“I am really proud of these performers,” Pedilla said. “We had a West Coast tour all the way to Arizona and have toured all of the Hawaiian archipelago — most important is for us to do these productions for our people here.”

“Kahekili” was originally performed in 1997 on Maui. In 2006 Maui Arts and Cultural Center commissioned the reconstruction and restaging of “Kahekili.” The reconstruction fosters a unique collaborative format by bringing together a culture-based artistic team of recognized kumu hula in traditional chant and dance. The production designer is Keali‘i Reichel.

Pedilla is a descendent from a matrilineal lineage of kumu hula (hula masters) from the island of Maui and dedicates her life to traditional Hawaiian cultural practice. She is considered a master kumu hula as well as a respected mele and chant composer.

For Pedilla, preparation for tomorrow’s performance begins at sunrise on Wailua River where the halau will pay its respects to the island.

“As visitors to your island it is important that we request permission to enter,” she said. “It’s a request to be received by the island. We are great chanters and dancers but we are primarily cultural practitioners first.”

Advance tickets available today only at the following: Hanalei Strings and Things; Bounty Music, Kapa‘a; Tropic Isle Music, Nawiliwili; Scotty’s Music, Kalaheo.

Tickets available day of performance at KCC Performing Arts Center box office from noon to 7 p.m. Cash only.

No credit cards or personal checks accepted.

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