Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hula Aiha‘a

Dear No One in Particular,

It is the Merrie Monarch Festival weekend here in Hawaii, and while I don't live on the Big Island, where the Festival is held, it is showing on local TV. I absolutely love watching hula -- real hula, the kind that tells a story.
As an anthropologist, hula is an interesting study. Nearly every aspect of (modern) hula has diverged from the traditional, pre-contact (or should it be pre-missionary ?) hula; it is a testament to the resiliency of the people and how adaptive culture really is.
Then again, as an anthropologist, my favourite hula are the kahiko hula, or the more traditional ones. I can't stand the modern hula auana, with the singing and steel guitars.

It's hard to watch the Merrie Monarch Festival, since I only understand what they're talking about half the time. I can pick up a few words, like "halau" and "kumu" (the hula school, and teacher, respectively), but when the commentators begin their assessment of the dancers, I'm completely in the dark.
For example, right now, there are a bunch of people filing on stage, recieving maile leis and greeting each other. Traditional Hawaiian names are a mouthful, and I can't really tell if they're introducing the people, or just commenting on the various halau.
Ah -- okay, so now the kumu are all dancing together. It's interesting to see the subtle differences in their interpretations of the same mele.

I have a slightly creepy sounding confession: I love watching dancers. Rather, I love watching dance being performed. Some of my absolute favourite TV shows are dance-related, like "So You Think You Can Dance", and the new Elizabeth Berkley vehicle, "Step It Up and Dance", which by the way, is pretty fabulous. I have pretty high hopes for "Step It Up and Dance", imaginary reader, because any show that opens with Spice Girls routines is aces in my book, especially when they invite Scary Spice to be a guest judge. I pretty much fell in love when, a contestant pointed out that they don't have much experience as a hip-hop dancer, she shot back with "But you're BLACK." A-mazing.

I know I said a movie review was forthcoming, and I did see Leatherheads, which was utterly charming, but I don't really have the energy, so a full-on review will have to wait.

Sorry to keep you on tenterhooks, non-specified blog reader.


P.S. In case you were wondering, the title refers to a specific type of hula dedicated to Pele. The more you know, unknown reader.

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