House with a View

morning view from the front yard

morning view from the front yard

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Hula at the Paniolo Bar

hula at hhmLast night the three of us wandered over to the Paniolo Lounge at Hotel Hana-Maui for a performance by Leokane Pryor backed up by the hula dancers from Grass Valley, CA.  It was an evening of appetizers, lots of cocktails and the support crew of friends and family periodically getting up to cheer on our musicians and dancers.

After the performance, the group joined the cheerleaders in the lounge to try and catch up to the drinking we’d already been doing for an hour.  16 of us pulled together every unused cocktail table in the hotel bar and made a large surface around which we gathered.  There were more drinks and more food, lots of loud laughter and best, of all, a continued performance, just for us, by Leokane and his friend CJ “Boom” Helekahi, a talented singer and ukelele player in his own right (currently recording a forthcoming album).boom & leokane

They sang all night, pausing only long enough to munch on some pu’pus or snag a sip of wine.  At one point, Leokane put down his ukelele and went up to dance a hula in a sort of competition with the leader of the visiting helau, and good friend, Pilialoha.  They each danced their own interpretation of a song performed by Boom, much to the cheering support of a highly entertained, happy crowd of friends.  When the occasion arose, a trio of ladies was inspired to dance a hula to one of the songs and a hotel employee followed suit with a beautiful dance that had us all on our feet with adulation.

What a treat!

Kaihalulu

The sun is finally peeking out from behind the clouds, so I made the hike to Red Sand Beach for a swim.

The effect of wandering through a field, down slopes, over lava rock with the tide lapping at your toes, around a steep bend and into the cutout carved into the side of the hill to find waves crashing at a lava rock wall with a lovely pool behind it is entrancing.  It’s no wonder I want to come again and again.Rounding the corner above Red Sand

It was myself and three scraggly looking stoner types on a log.  Otherwise the beach was empty.  Though, I admit it was a little strange to be sunning and swimming with three pot-smoking beardies in tattered Grateful Dead t-shirts eying me up.  I did bring an orange with me and would have thrown it for defense if necessary…

Luckily, as with everything else in Hana, the losers were harmless and I had a lovely time swimming in the clear waters, floating buyoantly while watching the waves crash against the rock wall and spill into the pool.

Upon leaving, I took my time wandering back the way I came.  There’s a marvelous outcrop of lava rock with an intense view that sits just below the trail level, so you feel like you are tucked away, hidden in your own secret spot near a not-so-secret secret beach.  The hard part is getting a self portrait without falling off the rock.  But I managed.gazing at the sea

Plant with a View

oceanview fern

Aloha, Hula

After spending part of the day at Hamoa Beach, my dad, Angela, and myself headed out to Malanai-Hale Manu, one of the beautiful cottages belonging to The Guest Houses at Malanai, owned and operated by my dad’s good friends Chris & Leokāne.

Before I go any further explaining the purpose of the visit, I have to do a bit of an infomercial for this fabulous place to stay.  The #1 cottages to stay at in Hana are The Guest Houses at Malanai.  The hales (houses) are Manu and Ulu Lulu.  You don’t have to believe me, just check out the rave reviews:

The purpose for our visit was a dinner party put on by friends of Leokāne.  It happens that Leokāne is an incredibly talented musician of the traditional sort.  His ukelele playing, soaring angelic voice and expressive hula dancing is a treat for anyone who has a chance to experience his gifts.  The moment that completely changed his life direction, ultimately bringing him back to Hawaii, the land of his youth and family, and bringing his music to us, was because of a party, a woman named Pilialoha Christiansen and her hula group (or hālau) Ka Hale Hula O Pilialohaokalani ‘O Hilo.  The hālau was visiting Hana as part of an inter-island trip that included attending the Merrie Monarch Festival, an annual festival celebrating the art of the hula (if you think the hula is some chick in a grass skirt and a coconut bra, you are sorely mistaken and missing out).  Also visiting was Leokāne’s nephew and bride (Joey & Sallie) celebrating their honeymoon.

The night consisted of an introduction to a dozen hula dancers from Grass Valley, CA.  I’m fairly certain they were all over 30, most over 40.  A varied group of ladies with great smiles, contagious laughter and kindness exuding from their every pore: This welcome attitude and gentle generosity is known as the Aloha Spirit.  They busied themselves around the kitchen, their every movement of this communal cooking appearing like a choreographed dance.  The rest of us were kept out of the kitchen (too many cooks spoil the pot?), drinking wine on the lanai (porch or deck) and eating delicious Pupus (appetizers).  Dinner was laid out buffet style, but the food was anything but!  Huge coconut shrimp, pork tenderloin, fresh salad with fruit, prawns…delicious!  After dishing ourselves a plate, we all gathered in the living room in front of the TV to watch the best of the Merrie Monarch Festival 2009.

Watching the varied types of hula, the myriad dancers alike, I was in awe!  The hula is divided into the two recognized styles: the ‘Auana and the Kahiko.  The ‘auana is the more modern hula which can be accompanied by a full group of musicians and string instruments are allowed.  The kahiko is the more traditional form and can only be chanted with a percussive instrument accompaniment.  Each hālau performs both an ‘auana and kahiko.  The categories are divided even further by gender – wahine (women) and kane (men) plus the category of best overall.  Additionally, there is a competition for solo wahines for the title of Miss Aloha Hula in which each dancer must perform both an ‘auana and kahiko. Still with me?

The best thing is probably to watch some of the best videos.  KITV airs the Merrie Monarch Festival footage each year and indexes the videos on their website.  Each video is accompanied by commentary that can be very illuminating and educational.  It’s recommended that you watch the videos of the winners in each category, but if you have time it’s enlightening to watch the lower ranked groups as well.  You don’t need to know hula to see who are the most talented and skilled dancers.  Even as I watched the Miss Hula Aloha contestants, once the girl who eventually won stepped out, it was painfully obvious how much she was elevated above all the others in her gift.

If you want an abbreviated version of who to watch, these are my suggestions:

  • Miss Hula Aloha ’09 Cherissa Henoheanäpuaikawaokele Käne: Kahiko and Auana
  • Kane group winner
  • The men’s groups are quite powerful to watch. The group that won performed what is essentially a procreation dance. Not that I need to even tell you that because it comes across pretty clear in the dance. You have to see it. The living room at the dinner party sounded like a bachelorette party when these guys came on and I was happy to be a part of it.

  • Wahine group winner
  • This dance was, culturally, an answer to the above men’s group. The refrain they chant while dancing is essentially a sound that means “out of breath”. You can figure out the rest.

It was a lovely evening and I’m lucky to have been able to be a part of it. The ladies were wonderful and Chris & Leokāne are now two of my favorite people.

Greenery

curlicues occurring nearly inside a fern, close to the stem

curlicues occurring nearly inside a fern, close to the stem

Nature’s Staircase

Roots make great natural stairs

Roots make great natural stairs