Aloha! I have been a dancer for most of my life and discovered Hawaiian Hula in 2013 while visiting some friends on the Big Island. I had already spent ten years prior to that studying Huna, a Hawaiian philosophy and an energy work technique called Kahi Loa from Kauai. Once I began dancing and learning hula with a group in Charlotte, NC I really wanted to learn more about the culture and the traditional hula techniques, protocols, and chants. The group I performed with in Charlotte, for the most part, focused mostly on the hapa-haole style seen in more entertainment settings on the east coast. I decided that I needed a hula teacher to study with and as synchronicity would align it, one of my first hula sisters had lived in Hawai'i for 15 years. She had lived with and had taken classes with Kumu Kea. After that initial connection was made, I've traveled frequently to Hawai'i for intensives to study with Kumu Kea (teacher of hula) and I return sharing what I can with others on the East Coast. I also take workshops with other Kumu's and hula teachers in person and virtually.
My classes and educational events are focused on the workout aspect to hula, and most importantly for me, on the spiritual aspect of hula. Without the spiritual/cultural aspect I always felt hula was missing something (read my hula blogs for more). In addition to the classes and hula school, I also lead a performance group, Emerald 'Āina Hula Dancers. As a group, our focus is less on the entertainment style and more on the educational side of hula with the events we do. Through the performance group and classes, the focus is to help hula students center, find peace, share aloha, appreciate our earth, and connect to the bigger picture of their lives and each other.
I educate hula students on two styles of hula including 'auana and kahiko along with hapa-haole (which I consider separate often from 'auana.) I myself love learning and continue to study, research, and spend time in Hawai'i to learn more about the culture, the aloha spirit, and the hula diaspora (the spread of hula around the world). By day, I am a college instructor of geography and I love being a student myself. What I am able to share from my Kumu, I enjoy sharing with others that may not be able to travel to Hawai'i. I also frequently weave into classes discussions on the landscapes, plants, and earth activity such as volcanic activity into my classes.
The world needs more aloha and I believe 100% that hula is one way that people can begin to experience aloha and dimensional awareness. I also believe hula helps dancers to feel more of a positive connection to others and our beautiful Earth. As an environmental scientist/geographer, I love the connection to nature that hula provides us through our body movements mimicking nature to the meles and olis (songs and chants) about beautiful landscapes. As an energy work practitioner for 15 years now, I can see the benefits that hula provides us while moving the body and focusing on the breath. Hula also teaches us to be in the present moment and reminds us to slow down our lives. As someone who values spiritual growth personally, I enjoy how hula brings people together and the aloha shared through the culture and spirit of the dance. In our society many of us would benefit from slowing down and breathing more deeply into life.
Over the years of teaching hula, I have developed a three + year long Hula program for adults to learn traditional hula (kahiko) and modern hula (‘auana) along with Huna wisdom, insights, and techniques/tools for self growth and dimensional awareness. Each year consists of six modules and each module runs for eight weeks where basic steps and hand motions are taught as well as hula history. Within each level two choreographies are learned, centered on a theme for the session (i.e., a place such as Lahaina, or an important historical person in Hawai'i). Classes are 60 minutes in length with the physical movement aspect and then 30 minutes of cultural and/or spiritual lessons.
I have taught weekly hula classes to both kids and adults now for several years. For two summers, I held a week long Hula Camp for young girls in Swansboro, NC. I have also given talks (and led audience participation) to women's groups, at staff meetings for businesses, and during recreational summer programs with Swansboro Parks and Rec and Ocean Isle Beach Parks and Rec. I also shared hula for an awards day activity at an elementary school and led the audience participation at the NC Polynesian festival for two years. I really do enjoy sharing hula. Through dreams, discussions with my Kumu, and other life lessons, I know my purpose is sharing hula wherever I reside and most importantly incorporating the spiritual aspect with it known as Huna and the aloha spirit.
Please note, I am not a Kumu, perhaps one day I will earn the right and privilege to be called one through the 'uniki process. For now I teach and share what I can with love and joy to enrich others lives and bring smiles and communities together. If you are desiring to learn from a Kumu with virtual classes, there are several offering their wisdom on-line and you can search for one that you resonate with. I do hope you'll become part of the community of hula dancers if you feel a calling inside your heart. The ladies in each group really are supportive and enjoy seeing each other weekly as it is way more than hula. I also always encourage those studying hula with me to study with Kumu's that travel and teach and/or other hula teachers as we can learn from everyone and every experience. As the Hawaiian saying goes,
A'ohe pau ka 'ike i ka hālau ho'okāhi
Not all knowledge is learned in one school.
In the Hula School and monthly series classes, I am very clear on and upfront with students for each hula we do as some are from my first Hula Teacher, Anela with Aloha Island Hula Girls and others are from Kumu Kealohalani which they have granted me permission to continue sharing. Some of the hula dances, I've choreographed. In sharing hula's passed on from Kumu Kealohalani of Kailua, O'ahu, our kahiko (traditional style dance) lineage comes through Aunty Lani Kalama, also of Kailua. Aunty Lani's teacher was the renowned Lokalia Montgomery known as the "teacher of teachers." Kumu Kealohalani's ʻauana (modern style dance) teacher was Bella Richards of Kailua, Oʻahu. Aunty Bella came from the Hilo tradition of ʻai haʻa style dancing, characterized by a very deep bend of the knees which is something we perpetuate within classes I teach. There are so many beautiful lineages with hula. One thing I really discuss in the hula school are the clear distinctions in our lineage and the variations we see with others (no wrong or right, just different lineages.) I believe it is important to know where we come from in what and how we do hula. As I continue to learn and grow with hula, I pass it on. I continue to take classes with Kumu Kealohalani as well as other Kumu's I feel guided to study with.
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The performance group has been together since 2017 with new members joining over that time and some leaving (we are near a military base so change is part of our lives). We've performed at Swansboro Arts Festival, NC Polynesian Festival, and various members have been hired for corporate events within the Coastal region of North Carolina. Performances take dedication, travel, time, and extra practice times. Also the performance group members are responsible for purchasing their own attire (and sometimes making their own). We have had mothers and daughters as well as grandmothers and granddaughters dance with us over the years.
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