Halau Hula Ka No`eau brings Hawaiian culture to Laxson
An authentic Hawaiian show is coming to Chico State University’s Laxson Auditorium March 22 at 7:30 p.m., compliments of the Big Island-based troupe Halau Hula Ka No‘eau, a performance company noted for its authentic presentation of Hawaiian dance based on legends, myths and chants reflecting the history and heritage of Hawaii.
The company has performed in Minnesota, New York, California, Arizona and Oregon, as well as on the Big Island, in Taiwan and British Columbia. The performers, drawn from participants of the Halau Hula Ka No‘eau Dance Academy of Waimea, Hawaii, also lecture and demonstrate their traditional arts at colleges and universities at home and abroad.
Founded in 1986 by master of Hawaiian culture Kumu Michael Pili Pang in the town of Waimea on Hawaii’s Big Island to promote the hula on a professional level, Halau Hula Ka No‘eau has flourished with the aid of a non-profit supporting organization created in 1993, the Hawaiian Arts Ensemble.
As an art form, hula has gone through many changes, says Kumu Pang. It originated in island religious services for the purpose of keeping native history and culture alive in a land without a written language and encompasses drumming, chants, pageantry, lei making and instrument making, as well as dance.
Missionaries who came to the islands in the 1800s soon invented the muumuu and outlawed the hula. But in 1883, King David Kalakaua changed those laws and invited practitioners—who were keeping the art form alive underground—to perform at his coronation. At the turn of the 20th century, hula went through another change, Pang says, when English words and Western music fused with those of Hawaiian genesis to create a new hula form—Hula Kuai, which means “to piece together.”
As the sounds and scents of the Islands wafted their way toward the mainland in the 1920s and ‘30s, the hula began to exude its mystique. U.S. servicemen stationed at Hickam Field, Pearl Harbor and Schofield Barracks, among the pineapple and sugar cane fields, sent home photos of themselves with gorgeous island girls attired in grass skirts and leis. Hollywood produced lush south-sea-island films to feed the imagination of Depression-era audiences.
Although it turned out the photos were as artificial as the films, by World War II the Hollywood image of the hula as primarily a sensuous dance was entrenched and created a stereotype that would prevail for 50 years.
With the coming of the Hawaiian renaissance in the early 1970s, the traditional hula became popular once more, and the current contemporary hula evolved—Hula Kahiko.
Today, hula gives a voice to young Hawaiian choreographers, poets, chanters and musicians wishing to explore and express traditional Hawaiian culture.
The program will feature dances, drumming, chants and pantomime. Women in Hawaiian mythology, Pang says, not only possessed the powers of the gods, they also experienced the mortal emotions of love, anger and jealousy.
Act I dramatizes the myth of Hopoe, the first hula dancer, and her tragic struggles with the goddess Pele. This drama was staged in Waimea and premiered at Symphony Space in New York City.
Act II, “Hula Pahu,” will depict the ritual dressing of the dancers and the dances of the Hula Pahu (drum dances). History has it that the pahu, a sacred instrument, was brought to Hawaii from Tahiti around 1250. Its music represents the fundamental principles of Hawaii perceptions of time in traditional music.
A lecture and demonstration of these authentic arts will be offered March 22 at 2 p.m. in Acker Gym, Room 204. It is free and open to the public.