Serving with open minds and hearts

For anyone who commits themselves to learning the art of hula, Paddy “Wailani” Kauhane said one key concept is always stressed: the perpetual ability to learn with an open mind and heart. 

“One of the laws of hula is that not all knowledge comes from one school, so just because this is your lineage and what you know, isn’t it a wonderful and beautiful thing to be able to look at other lineages and see how they’re here for the same reason you are,” said Kauhane, co-executive director of the Lauakea Foundation on Oahu. “Except what they celebrate and what they learned may be slightly different?

“It doesn’t mean that I’m wrong and you’re right,” she added. “It just means that it’s an even bigger celebration.”

That same celebration, she said, will continue at the annual E Pili Kakou, which kicks off Feb. 20 at the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort, following a yearlong hiatus to help with last year’s Ka Aha Hula O Halauaola (the fourth World Conference on Hula). 

“The main focus of the weekend is to provide workshops in hula, culture, place, and anything to do with the culture that relates to hula in a non-competitive, nurturing environment,” said Kauhane, who is helping to organize the event. “We have workshops happening all day Friday and Saturday, and in the evenings we have a celebration event where we have live music and all the participants in the workshop are going to perform what they learned during the day.”

The whole weekend is capped off with a free kukakuka (discussion) session on Sunday, where featured kumu hula will sit on a presentation panel and allow audience members to “ask questions about anything they ever wanted to know about the culture and about hula.” 

Well-known kumu hula who will be guiding workshops and classes this year include Joan Lindsey, Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, Ed Collier, Leiamomi Ho, Kealoha Kalama, Maka Herrod, Noelani Chang-Ka‘aina, Maelia Lobenstein-Carter, Keala Ching, Leialoha Amina and Kapua Dalire.

“You can be a beginner or advanced, or could even have grown up in a hula environment, but the time doesn’t matter — we’re all students and we continue to be students right till the very, very end,” Kauhane said. “These kumu hula who are coming usually don’t teach outside of their halau, so for them to come to an environment which is so relaxed and celebratory, it’s an experience that will change a person’s life.”

This year’s event, Kauhane said, will also feature members from Kauai Nui Kuapapa, who will teach attendees about “the genealogy of Kauai, certain place names, especially ones that don’t exist any longer, and how it relates to Hawaiian mele (chants or poems).” 

“This is wonderful not only for the haumana (students), but also for the kumu (teachers), who can enjoy what each other brings to the table,” County Office of Economic Development tourism specialist Nalani Brun wrote in an email. “The Hawaiian cultural community is very tight knit and tries to share with each other new forms of past information which feeds the participants as they strive to strengthen our culture.” 

In all, Kauhane said, about 150 people attended E Pili Kakou in 2013. 

“What we want everyone to know is that hula and the Hawaiian culture is for everyone,” Kauhane said. “As long as you come with an open mind and an open heart, that’s what we’re here to serve.” 

Now in its 17th year, the gathering will honor Kumu Hula Joan Lindsey, who still teaches students from her Pearl City hula studio on Oahu, as well as late Kumu Hula Aloha Dalire, Paulette Kahalepuna, Doric Yaris and Wayne Chang, who died last year. 

Tickets to access all events happening that weekend can be purchased for $215. 

Event attendees, however, may also purchase $60 tickets to attend morning or afternoon sessions, or $15 tickets to attend evening events, on either day.

Event check-in and registration begins at 7 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 20 and Saturday, Feb. 21. The free, two-hour kukakuka (discussion) session on Sunday begins at 9 a.m.

Info: Kauhane at (808) 454-3256, or pkauhane@hulaspirit.com.

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