It was July 18, 2:00 in the afternoon. I was about to witness the Halau Na Wai Ola in concert for the first time. I learned from my reading that the group has held several sold-out concerts. Hence, looking at the volume of spectators at the Museum of Quilts and Textiles in San Jose, California, I know that I was in for one unforgettable treat. Halau Na Wai Ola or “The Living Waters” is traditional dance school that caters to Hawaiian dancing specifically. The goal of the group is to preserve Hawaii’s native dance and teach this to all those who are interested, be they young or old.
Besides the training and dance lessons they offer, they also join dance competitions and hold several dance concerts throughout the year, like the one I was about to see. So I sat relaxed on my chair for the show was about to begin. With the beat from the drummer, the dancers started gracefully dancing one of their five dances – the famous hula dance. Hula dancing is native to Hawaii and its purpose is to convey meaning through different movements. These movements are representative of the story dancers wish to relay.
Thus, each of them is very particular with every move so as to effectively communicate their story, which can be heard from the mele or song/chant that accompanies the dance. Barefoot and wearing their traditional long red skirts called Pa’u, their black collarless blouse with a floral necklace, bracelet, and headband, and huge smiles on their faces, the dancers began their famous swaying. As they moved their legs, the Pa’u moved also; as they moved their hips, the skirt moved with them as well. These only highlighted their graceful moves especially their sensual sways.
They utilized a drum for their music and with some chanting from the drummer, they danced a hula kahiko that relayed a story of their mythology. Thus, with expressive faces, they moved their feet left and right; with knees bent, they swayed their hips; and with meditative spirits, they raised their arms elegantly – the basic moves in hula. What made the concert unusual yet interesting at the same time though was that the emcee intruded in between the dancing to explain briefly each dance’s history and movement.
Though this did turn off few audience members as the dance was slightly interrupted, it still worked for me because it made me understand why the dance and dance movements were the way they were, thereby eliciting more appreciation for the concert. Moreover, the dancers seemed as if they were enjoying themselves as they always looked towards their audiences with big smiles. Hence, it was enjoyable and pleasant to watch them. I carefully observed each one as they were lighted by medium-lit spotlights. Indeed, they were skilled in their dancing craft.
They practiced pretty well as their movements were synchronized and no one committed any mistake, which were highlighted by good lighting; hence teamwork was excellent. Overall, my expectation of an unforgettable treat was fulfilled. This is because I cannot forget this hand movement called Kalima that I learned from the concert. This movement signified a particular meaning for the dancers and told something about Hawaiian history. In Hawaiian dancing, hand and hand movements are important as they express and represent a lot of things.
For instance, raising of hands from the bottom making a big circle denotes the sun, which was symbolic for Hawaiians and their history. Moreover, it was also my first time to see Hawaiian traditional musical instruments for dancing called Uli-Uli and Ipu. These are as well significant in the concert for without them, the dance might have been incomplete and boring. Nonetheless, my experience was the opposite as it was complete and interesting thanks to the combination of graceful dancing, great accompanying music, fabulous costumes, effective lighting, and skilled dancers.
Courtney from Study Moose
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