"At the PCC, Aunty Sally will always be remembered and celebrated as a beloved kumu hula," said Ellen Gay Dela Rosa, Theater Director and Aunty Sally's niece. "But her legacy lives on in Hawaii at this festival that brings together kupuna [elders] and keiki [children] to share and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture."
As it has for the past several years, please note that the following changes from earlier Moanikeala Hula Festivals were observed this year:
The 2013 festival will be a ho’ike or exhibition. Unlike earlier PCC Moanikeala competitions, we no longer award prizes or standings, but we traditionally present each halau (school) with a ho’okupu or gift in appreciation for sharing their talents.
All seats in the Pacific Theatear are reserved, and assigned on a first-come basis.
The Moanikeala Festival will be on January 19th, 2013, 10:00am, @Pacific Theater.
The 2013 festival, as in the past few years, is a ho'ike or exhibition. There are no prizes or standings, but the PCC traditionally presents each halau with a ho'okupu or gift in appreciation for sharing their talents.
We've created a special page for our Japanese Halau. 日本語のページ
To those new to our Moanikeala Hula Festival, a description of 2011 and several past-year events follow below that will give you insights into the beauty and grace of this classic Hawaiian art form as we feature it.
“The 20th anniversary was wonderful,” said PCC alumna Sunday Mariteragi on January 16, 2010, after 12 groups — including dozens of dancers from Japan — performed in the Center’s most recent Moanikeala Hula Festival. While some of the groups, or halau, appeared for the first time, several others have come every year.
Mariteragi encouraged the Center more than 20 years ago to start the festival to honor Aunty Sally Moanikeala Wood, her real aunt and starting in 1963, the Center’s first kumu hula or hula instructor. Since then, Aunty Sally, who was partially raised in nearby Kahana, taught hula to hundreds of PCC student performers until she retired in 1980. After that she became a hula consultant until she passed away in January 2000.
“We come together today to help in the sharing and presentation of this great Hawaiian art form, the hula, and to honor Aunty Sally,” said PCC emcee Harry Brown.
“Aunty Sally loved hula, and she loved everyone in hula,” said kumu hula Olana Ai, whose Halau Hula Olana has appeared in every Moanikeala Festival from the beginning. “She was always hugging and kissing everybody...and this is how she taught us.”
Mariteragi agreed with Ai: “She taught me especially, and hopefully everybody else, we need to appreciate each other’s styles of hula and love for hula, that we can come together in an atmosphere like this and just participate.”
She added that her aunt particularly loved her young students at the PCC, and would even have all of them over to her house on the beach across from the Cultural Center. But Mariteragi also recalled, “Sometimes she would scold them so much, because they weren’t dancing right, and then she would cry and say I’m sorry for scolding you. That’s how much love she had.”
“Aunty Sally is still alive and well right here at the festival,” said PCC Cultural Director Cy Bridges, who oversees the Center’s special events and went through uniki or kumu hula graduation under Aunty Sally’s tutelage along with hula brother Keith Awai and sisters Mariteragi and Ellen Gay Dela Rosa. He noted that one of his favorite memories of Aunty Sally “was watching her perform, because she was majestic. She was real... We were very lucky to have Aunty Sally as our kumu in those days.”
Kumu hula Kela Miller [pictured at left, above] — an original PCC hula dancer in 1963 — provided one of the highlights of the festival when her Halau Hula o Kekela chanted a welcome for all of the dancers who came from Japan, then presented them with gifts [pictured below].
The Polynesian Cultural Center’s 19th annual Moanikeala Hula Festival, with 12 halau or hula schools performing, provided visitors and parents a wonderful opportunity to watch hundreds of haumana [students] — ranging in age from 2-86 — demonstrate their aloha for hula auana, the modern form of the dance typified by graceful movements, floral adornments, lovely costumes and beautiful Hawaiian music.
Hula has an appeal that stretches far beyond Hawaii, and in the opening moments of the festival PCC senior manager Kealii Haverly thanked all the performers and fans for their “respect, acknowledgement and love of the culture.”
For example, two halau from Japan participated in the 2009 festival, as they did in 2008. Indeed, it's said there are more halau hula in Japan and Mexico - each - than in Hawaii.
Next, the PCC presented its first-ever Kaui Kawekiu Award to William Kauaiwiulaokalani “Uncle Bill” Wallace III — director of the BYUH Hawaiian Studies Program, as well as an attorney, per diem Family Court judge, and “an outstanding alumnus (student and senior manager) of the Polynesian Cultural Center — for his efforts in teaching and presenting Hawaiian culture.” Wallace was also recognized for his roles in helping create, launch and captain BYUH’s 57-foot traditional wa’a kaulua or twin-hulled Hawaiian sailing canoe, Iosepa. (Wallace’s daughter, Jerusha Magalei, accept the award on behalf of her father, who is ailing.)
With the introductions and presentations over, the dancers took the stage for the next several hours on a cool, clear day. “This is the nineteenth year of the Moanikeala Hula Festival. When we first started, I had black hair,” joked a graying Ellen Gay Dela Rosa, one of Aunty Sally’s nieces and kumu hula for the
Polynesian Cultural Center ’s Promo Team dancers. Aunty Sally’s daughter, Michelle, and other members of the family also attended the event.
In a word, it was an exceptional day for hula fans: The dancers were fabulous, the music was beautiful, and ono (delicious) Hawaiian food plates were available during the lunch break.
As they did last year, mid-way through the program kumu hula Kela Miller and Keith Awai — both of whom trained under Aunty Sally — made an impromptu presentation, chanting and giving ho’okupu or offerings to the dancers who had traveled so far from Japan out of their love and appreciation for hula. The Japanese women, beautifully dressed in their mu’umu’u, all stood on stage as PCC Hawaiian cultural expert Cy Bridges chanted in response to the presentation on their behalf, as is the custom. Many had tears in their eyes.
"This was not part of the program,” explained emcee Harry “Haleakala” Brown. “They just wanted to extend aloha to their hula sisters from Japan.”
At another point near the end of the program, Dela Rosa and her sister, “Aunty” Sunday Mariteragi — who originated the Moanikeala Hula Festival in her aunt’s honor — demonstrated they’ve still got it; as did their “hula brother” and kumu hula Keith Kalanikau Awai, which prompted Brown to quip, “He’s not even breathing hard,” as Awai finished. Also as they do each year, after the last halau performed, all the kumu hula came on stage to dance to Moanikeala, the hauntingly beautiful song composed in Aunty Sally’s honor.
One of those who came on stage after the festival to congratulate the kumu was Kawaimaka Lonoae’a, a PCC alumnus who studied under Aunty Sally in those days, then went on to work in sharing Hawaiian culture and is now a semi-retired teacher. “I remember how patient she was with us when we learned,” he recalled. “I definitely consider her my kumu, although I didn’t get to unihi [graduate] because I was teaching off-island at the time.”
"I'm so glad the Japanese halau came again. They tend to embrace things, and for them to come all that way for Aunty Sally means that hula is all over the world,” said Mariteragi, as the last strains of the song Hawaii Aloha filled the Pacific Theater.
“I also appreciate the comments from the other kumu, who keep telling me they just love coming — if not for Aunty Sally, but that it’s comfortable and a festival for everyone to share aloha with each other. They say, we’re here because we really do just love hula.”
“Because Aunty Sally has a legacy here,” Mariteragi added, “I also salute the Polynesian Cultural Center for continuing the festival for 19 years.”
The Polynesian Cultural Center's 2008 Moanikeala Hula Festival was one of the biggest — and best — in the event's 18-year history, marked by the participation of 13 halau hula or hula schools and approximately 300 haumana or students.
Amazingly, the haumana this year ranged in age from 2-84, and many of them — like those from Japan — participated because of their love for the dance even though they are not ethnically Hawaiian.
"Aunty" Kela Miller, an original 1963 Polynesian Cultural Center dancer who studied under Aunty Sally, pointed out two examples in her group: The first, a teacher at a nearby school originally from Germany, has been a student since Miller started her group five years ago; and the second is an 84-year-old Japanese woman who has lived in Hawaii all her life and originally started dancing hula as a girl under the direction of Miller's great-grandmother, a well-known and highly respected kumu hula.
In a gracious gesture of Hawaiian hospitality at one point during the festival, Miller's Halau Hula O Kekela presented the visiting dancers from Japan with a ho'okupu or traditional offering of leis and gifts.
Speaking through an interpreter, Sayuri Kasugai, kumu hula of the group from Aichi, Ka Leo O Laka I Iapana/Ka Pa Hula O Ka'ie'ie, thanked Miller and noted this was the group's second appearance in the Moanikeala Festival. She added that 33 of her 66 students made the journey.
PCC Cultural Director Cy Bridges — a noted kumu hula in his own right, a student of Aunty Sally, and co-emcee of the program — explained there are almost 600,000 hula students in Japan, "and one halau has 8,000 students. I've been there many times to teach."
"Each of the halau brings with them a very wonderful spirit of hula," said PCC Harry Brown, a Hawaiian originally from Maui. He also noted the beauty of their costumes, floral decorations and music — all typical of hula auana or modern-style hula.
For example Bridges daughter, Maria Bridges-Nakila resurrected her father's former PCC-sponsored halau hula, Hui Hooulu Aloha, which performed and competed in events such as the Merrie Monarch Festival in the 1980s for this year's Moanikeala.
In fact, Bridges, his "hula brothers and sister" Brown, Dela Rosa and PCC Theater Manager Keith Awai took the stage to dance. In addition, Bridges and Brown added their significant musical talents to the festival, and Awai brought his own school, Halau Kawaipuhilani, to perform.
Another particularly striking example included two beauty queens: Tessie Toluta'u, the reigning Miss South Pacific, who is also Miss Heilala in the Kingdom Tonga, and Miss Tonga USA; and Sina Nauahi, the immediate past Miss Heilala and Miss Tonga USA. Both young women, who are members of the Polynesian Cultural Center's Promo Team, danced exquisitely with Dela Rosa, who also manages the Promo Team.
"I'm sure Aunty Sally must be very proud, and I could feel her spirit with us this afternoon," said Dela Rosa. "It was just a wonderful time."
"A lot of this would't be as successful without the parents and the musicians," added Brown. "Hana hou!" [Let's do it again.]
In Hawaiian, e luana kakou means "let's enjoy ourselves," which is an appropriate description of...
(Top): The Makaha Sons John and Jerome Koko,
Moon Kauakahi, with impromptu hula dancer Kela Miller
(center) and protoge Hoku Zuttermeister (right)
at the PCC in 2007.
(Bottom): Natalie Ai Kamauu and family members beautifully
provided the warm-up entertainment.
• The 2007 E Luana Kakou concert:
For the fifth year in a row the incomparable harmonizing and beautiful contemporary Hawaiian music of the Makaha Sons thrilled a sold-out audience in the PCC's beautiful Hale Aloha luau theater on January 19.
The Makaha Sons — John and Jerome Koko, and group leader Moon Kauakahi — have been performing together for 31 years, sweetening island music with their tight harmony and fantastic chord progressions. John played stand-up bass; Jerome added the lead guitar highlights and kept "cracking up" the audience with his humorous comments between numbers; and Moon, who writes some of the music, completed the mix on rhythm guitar. Their program included long-time favorites, such as White Sandy Beach and some new songs from their latest, just-released CD.
"They have accomplished just about everything there is in Hawaiian music," said PCC artistic director and Hawaiian cultural expert Cy Bridges, who emceed the concert. "They have taken our music and dance all around the world."
As happens in Hawaiian concerts, and even backyard luaus for that matter, to the delight of all, various individuals and groups got up and danced hula to some of the songs.
Then, as they have done in past years at the PCC, the Makaha Sons brought out a young artist they've been working with, in this case Hoku Zuttermeister. He sang three or four numbers in his rich baritone, which Jerome compared to the late Alfred Apaka. Zuttermeister also demonstrated his skills in the uniquely popular male Hawaiian falsetto vocal range, which local audiences love.
Even the youngest keiki or children in Hawaii
are encouraged to learn hula. For over 20 years a children's halau or school, encouraged by Aunty Sally, has been
practicing at the Polynesian Cultural Center. (Photos by Mike Foley)
• As it does every year, the PCC's 17th annual Moanikeala Hula Festival 2007 was held in honor of the late Aunty Sally Moanikeala
Wood Naluai, the PCC's first kumu hula or
Aunty Sally, as everyone called her, taught hula
to the Church College of Hawaii and BYU-Hawaii (the university was renamed in 1974) student performers at the Polynesian
Cultural Center from its opening on October 12,
1963 until she retired in 1980. After her retirement Aunty Sally continued to
act as a hula consultant until she passed away
in 2000. Learn
more of the festival's history...
The PCC's Moanikeala Hula Festival started as a competition for keiki or children's groups dancing in the auana or modern style; but since the Cultural Center's 40th anniversary in 2003, all halau or groups performin ho'ike or
exhibition style, and adult and kupuna or elderly dancers also participate. The dancers occasionally perform in the hula kahiko or ancient style.
On Saturday morning, January 20, 2007, dancers from eight halau gathered early for this year's festival. "Each halau brings a very special spirit of the hula," said PCC emcee Harry Brown, who is originally from Maui, "and we express deep appreciation to all of them — the keiki, the parents and grandparents — for coming. What you see is the tip of the iceberg of all the work that goes into this."
During the festival, Brown pointed out at least one of the groups was making its initial appearance while others have participated in every one, or nearly every one.
After all the hula and a PCC presentation of hookupu or traditional gifts to the kumu hula, Aunty Sunday Mariteragi — niece of Aunty Sally Naluai, founder of the festival and kumu hula of her own halau which currently has 150 keiki students — said, "This year, more than any other year, we're starting to focus on what Aunty Sally was all about: Everyone can enjoy hula. Anyone can dance hula. Hula is for everyone. There's no right or wrong about it, and we can meet together to perform and appreciate each other with a variety of dancing, singing and style, without being intimidated by each other."
"More importantly, what she taught me is we should be happy for each other. That says it all. That's what I try to teach in the halau here at the PCC with my own group.
Aunty Sunday added that next year's Moanikeala Festival should include participation from her group as well as those of her "hula brothers and [real] sister: Cy Bridges, Keith Awai and Ellen Gay Dela Rosa."
In Hawaiian, moanikeala refers to a "gentle,
fragrant breeze," which seems an appropriate way to
describe the graceful motions in hula