Monday, August 20, 2012

The Culture of Dance

Saturday I began taking Hawaiian hula lessons.

There are actually several reasons why I decided to begin taking hula.

One - My father was stationed in Hawaii from 1970, both he and my mother lived there until their passing and I still have a family living there, so I feel a connection to the islands.

I also have a beautiful 10 year old niece named Maile, who is an amazing dancer, and has been taking classes at the Academy of Hawaiian Arts for about 3 years now. Last week I went to see her practice for the 1st time. The beauty of the dance along with the mesmerizing voice of the hula teacher had me awestruck.

As I watched her practice I decided that this was something I would love to do, (although at the time, I thought classes were only for children or professional dancers). I was delighted to learn that the center offers lots of classes, including adult beginners classes. And...the best thing was that the classes are held on Saturday mornings. 

Two - I've been researching fitness classes and have been hearing some good things about zumba, but time-wise, I've not been able to fit the available classes into my schedule. I've always been interested in all types of dance (but haven't taken any structured classes since I was a child) When I was thinking over the choices, I even considered belly dance ( but then quickly changed my mind as I recalled that -- the belly I have NOW -- is NOT the belly I would want to see in one of those skimpy little outfits). Nuff said!

Three -  One of the biggest hurdles for me (and I had to do some real self talk) was to convince myself that I wasn't 'too old' to start this dance class and that I could really learn the steps (I'm pretty sure that there isn't anyone else taking our class that is as old as me and they will probably be a little surprised if I ever reveal my age) but as the 9th anniversary of the death of my good friend Annette rolled around last week, I was reminded of her favorite song, 'I hope you dance'.  And really, that's all it took! 

About the Academy of Hawaiian Arts
In 2003, Mark Keali’i Ho’omalu founded the Academy of Hawaiian Arts, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and performing arts school in Oakland, California. A hula halau (dance school) led by the vision of its Kumu Hula (teacher of hula), AHA offers hula classes for dancers of all ages. AHA also offers classes in Hawaiian music ('ukulele and singing) and workshops in Hawaiian crafts.
Kumu Hula Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu's work has been featured in the PBS documentary American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawai'i, in the Walt Disney movie Lilo and Stitch, and on several original CDs including Call It What You Like and Po'okela Chants.
About the class

The class is 2 hours and meets on Saturday from 11:30 - 1:30.  I can tell you this - it was not what I expected!  Before I attended, I thought to myself "how hard can it be to move my hips around?" I figured it would be more of a casual scene not half as serious as this class was. Actually serious is a very good thing!

After my 1st class I can attest to the fact that Hawaiian hula is way more than just swiveling your hips in grass skirt! Whew! Before we started we did a workout called "wake up" exercises which included floor work, push ups, leg lifts and exercises for flexibility and strengthening of the hips and thighs. That is the part that I wasn't expecting (and I totally wore the wrong kind of t-shirt which was way to low for all the floor exercises eh hem) but after taking the class I can see why you would need this strengthening.

After the exercises, the class moves on to the actual hula steps. It is a lot of repetition with music and chanting and there are instructors who walk around and give you personal one on one attention to help you develop the steps in the proper manner.

I am very happy (and very sore) but I made it through and I'm very pleased with the class. It was a lot of fun and I found the experience to be both physical and meditative at the same time. The people were all very friendly and helpful. I bought the official T-shirt. The skirts they wear are handmade.  In case you were wondering about my skirt - for this class  I had to borrow one from the center (and the only skirt available happened to be red -- which I actually liked) but for future I would rather have my own white skirt.  I'll find out more about that next week.

So, NEVER think that you're too old to do anything! Age shouldn't define what you can and cannot do. If you really love something, being older than the rest shouldn't matter whatsoever. Go for it! Just do it!

I hope you dance - Lee Ann Womack

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

Please watch -- This is how it's suppose to be done
 The Academy of Hawaiian Arts (with Maile )

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