Hawaii As the sun rose over the ocean and made its way to
Kilauea crater, Halau Na Pua Haaheo o Kona dancers, their
friends and family gathered to purify themselves and pay homage
to the goddess of the Hawaiian volcano, Pele. The hula dancing groups
morning began hours earlier when they left their homes in Kona to
reach the goddess home, Halemaumau, by sunrise.
Later that morning, they would take the stage for a Hula Kahiko
performance at the Volcano Art Center. But first, they needed to
follow protocol and recognize whose home it was they were in.
have to go see her first, Halau Na Pua Haaheo o Kona
kumu hula Roy Bobo Palacat, Native Hawaiian, said. If
we had danced and then gone to the crater, no, that would not have
first ceremony, the Pi Kai, brought the group into a large circle
where they joined hands, prayed and chanted. Palacat stressed the
importance of the cleansing they were about to undertake. Then,
two dancers came forward with bowls of salt water mixed with ground
olena, tumeric root, to ward off evil. Palacat dipped his fingers
in the water and touched his eyes so that everything he would see
would be pure. He then dipped his fingers and touched his mouth
so that every word from his mouth would be pure. Alternating between
the water and then his ears, his heart, his center, and then the
top of his head connecting himself to his ancestors, Palacat blessed
and purified his being.
first prayer ceremony is to our ancestors. They stand to the back
of us, they stand to the front, to the sides, they are all around
us. We ask them to give us knowledge, insight, wisdom and strength.
explained that Hawaiian language is wrought with layers and levels
of meaning, which can muddle an individuals actions. During
the Pi Kai, the participants are readied to stay focused in everything
they do and be guided by their spiritual power.
is so that our whole body is encased in pono [honor and righteousness]
Palacats blessing, each of the dancers and their supporters
also followed in the blessing-way. Had the group been at the oceans
edge, they would have immersed themselves rather than using the
bowl of salt water and olena.
group then made the pilgrimage to the very edge of the crater for
the Ho o kupu, ceremony to pay tribute to Pele. There, they offered
a lei and two dances as Palacat, their leader and choreographer,
chanted and played the gourd instrument called the ipu.
do this to say, Yes, Pele is here. She lives here, she dances
here. Yes, she is living here on our island, but not just here all
the way to Maui. This is her home.
Abraham, Native Hawaiian, who has been dancing for 25 years, said
the offering was critical to show their honor for Pele.
important to be there, letting Pele know that we are there for her
dancing for her and praying for her, she said.
the offerings, the group returned to the Volcano Art Center for
their performance on the hula platform. This setting was constructed
in 1980 and faces Kilauea with Mauna Loa to the north.
groups performance, He Lei Aloha No Hiiakaikapoliopele,
consisted of approximately 12 dances and was a tribute to Peles
youngest and most loved sister, Hiiakaikapoliopele. Through
the performance, Palacat orated the story of the sisters move
from their ancestral homelands to the Big Island of Hawaii and their
origination of the hula.
the legend, it is Pele who spawns the growth of hula when she sees
two women dancing on a beach in the Puna district of the Big Island
and requests that one of her sisters dance. When none of them step
forward except the tiny, Hiiaka, Pele is skeptical. Hiiaka,
however, amazes everyone with her dance. Into the future, it is
Hiiakaikapoliopele and Pele who perpetuate the dance.
performance detailed the nature of Pele as one who shows her anger
and frustration with her lava flows and Hiiakas character
as a healer and rejuvenator.
Pele comes over the land, Hiiaka comes after her, Palacat
said. She brings the rain, the trees, the plants to heal the
land. You could not have one without the other.
performance, Palacat explained, was a metaphorical lei. Each dance
represented a flower in a lei and the entire show was a lei
a gift being given in honor of Hiiakaikapoliopele and Pele.
the performance came to a close, Volcano Art Center Education Coordinator
Marsha Hee explained the depth of the Hawaiian hula as more than
entertainment. Rather, it represents the vibrant culture and living
history of the Hawaiian people. Palacat has been studying hula and
Hawaiian history for a lifetime. At his halau, hula school, he offers
three levels of hula classes to individuals of all cultures. In
response to Hees words, the audience loudly applauded and
rose to their feet.
more information about the Volcano Art Center and the Hula Kahiko
Performance Series, visit www.volcanoartcenter.org.