An interview with our very own resident kumu hula, Mapuana, who is one of our Travel Directors on the Big Island of Hawai‘i.
Name: Mapuana A.
Position: Luxe Travel Hawai‘i Travel Director
Hālau (Dance Troop): Hālau Hula O Pohai Kealoha
Years of Experience: Since Her First Footsteps
Favorite Song to Dance To: Ke Aloha, composed by Lei Collins
Why do you dance hula?
“The honest to God truth? Because my grandma made me…. Nah! It helps to keep me grounded to the culture. It is my family lineage and something that they’ve done for all of their lives. From my grandmas parents, to her parents, it’s our family lineage. And it’s something that I enjoy! It helps to not only keep me in shape, but it also helps to keep me grounded.”
Who influenced you most in your hula career?
“It would probably be my grandma – because of how she looked at hula, what she wanted to do with it, and how it brought so much happiness to the people and visitors…It bonded the girls in the Hālau like sisters. She did a lot.”
How often do you practice?
“Me personally? – Every other day. But since my grandma has gotten older, the Hālau practices once a week.“
What is your favorite Hula memory?
“My favorite hula memories are when I’m walking in parades, making the floats, walking in the parades, dancing in the parades – it’s a whole show.“
What is the hardest part about dancing hula?
“The hardest part about dancing hula, to me, is the memorization, the understanding of what you’re dancing, not just to scrape the surface of what the paper says the song means, but to actually go into the kaona, or the hidden meaning of the song. I think expressing the kaona of the song and living the kaona of the song – that is what is difficult. You can do motions, but to actually understand the song and tell it with just the motions is difficult.”
What’s the biggest difference between hula back in the day, and hula today?
“I think it is much more competitive now. My generation has grown up dancing hula, and a lot of us have become kumu hula (hula instructors). We expect more from our dancers, and in expecting more from our dancers, our dancers expect more from us…and with that comes the competitive part. A lot of people want to compete now, whereas before, it was just to share our culture, share our love, that’s what hula stood for.”
How can you distinguish between a new and experienced hula dancers?
“I can tell by watching their motions, watching their feet, and seeing their expressions. You can see it – it’s not just the nerves they are trying to hide, it’s everything else. After all of these years of watching hula and dancing hula, I was lucky to be around people who influenced hula, so now when I look at it, I can see “Oops she made a mistake, oops that wasn’t what the song was about” I can see just by watching and tell the difference.”