How the Hula Preservation Society is Documenting a Piece of Hawai‘i History
For more than a decade, the Hula Preservation Society has been interviewing, and videotaping, hula’s most respected elders, capturing their knowledge, their memories and their stories. The result is a treasure trove of history and culture; here, we present just a few excerpts from the hundreds of hours of footage.
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So when I came back Monday to Hilo, Mrs. Hale called a staff meeting, and she said, “Oh, George went to Maui to the Whaling Spree and we’re gonna start one over here, too.” I said, “We’re not gonna start one, we’re gonna make our own.” I didn’t want to tell them what happened there.
And so I just came out with: Let’s honor King David Laamea Kamanakapuu Kalakaua, who loved the hula and was the first Hawaiian alii that toured the world. He was the Merry Monarch. And that’s how it started. I didn’t know what I was gonna do.
We had some hula shows during the first event. But not a competition. Just had Hilo people, you know, halaus. The only contest at Merrie Monarch was the Kalakaua beard contest. We had the Grog Shoppe, seeing as Kalakaua was a merry old soul. Later we had the first Hilo competition, and then opened up to the public, and the next thing you know, look at Merrie Monarch today. But we try to keep it authentic.
Everything changes. The music has changed, the dances have changed, but the hula is still the ability to create one’s most inner feelings. So no teacher is wrong. That’s their manao. That’s how they feel. Hawaiian words have many meanings. And you can take it, can be naughty but still get nice. But that’s the hula. Hawaiians do things how you feel, not how somebody else feel.
The hula is the ability to create one’s most inner feelings and not somebody else’s. So don’t say that that teacher is wrong and this teacher is right. They’re all right. That’s their interpretation. And that’s why the hula is beautiful. That’s why the hula is done all over the world. Every country you go to, they dancing the hula. Maybe the “Hukilau” or “I Wanna Go Back To My Little Grass Shack.” But it’s the hula. And they know where Hawai‘i is. So, no ke akua e aloha makou—he gave us love for us to share. Not to talk about somebody.
Old Hawaiians say, Paa ka waha, hana ka lima. Shut your mouth. Let the hands tell the story. That’s Hawai‘i.