From Warehouse to Wings

A new community dance space, Hale Pulelehua, opens.

Photo: Mark Arbeit

One of the long-term goals of the hula preservation society (HPS) was to build a community studio in honor of its founder, the late Nona Beamer. But with a nudge from Mother Nature, the goal was realized in six months.

Back in September the first floor of the Kaneohe house that the nonprofit used as an office flooded, forcing members to find another space. After a few weeks of searching, the group signed a lease on a 750-square-foot office space in the Windward Business Center that came with a 540-square-foot warehouse—perfect for a dance studio.

“It came about so quickly,” says HPS executive director and kumu hula Maile Loo-Ching. “We didn’t know what to do with it at first. But it was all meant to be.”

With an unexpected $2,500 donation from hula legend Kent Ghirard in December and labor provided by Loo-Ching’s h-alau, the nonprofit renovated the warehouse space, removing the dingy carpet, installing hardwood laminate flooring, repainting the 30-foot walls and building a 21-inch mirrored wall.

Named Hale Puleleluha (“House of the Butterfly”) after Beamer’s Puna home, the studio opened in March with a blessing by Beamer’s grandson, Kamanamaikalani Beamer and music by Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning group Pali.

The studio is available for local groups looking for an affordable space for dance rehearsals, exercise classes, music practice or cultural studies. Already, three dance groups are renting the space.

“We’re trying to help other groups out while, at the same time, helping ourselves,” Loo-Ching says. “It’s remarkable how this all came together.”

In Beamer’s honor, most of the studio is painted with colorful hues and decorated with butterflies. The goal was to replicate her open and inviting Puna home.

“That’s like this beautiful studio in the middle of warehouses,” says Loo-Ching. “We want people to walk in and feel like they’re in another place.”