As prominent as hula is in Hawaiian culture, poetry is just as significant, according to Hokulani Holt, director of cultural programs at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. However, it's an aspect that tends to be under-represented in today's society.
"Hawaiian culture was an oral culture, so everything that was passed on from generation to generation was done orally," Holt says. "This included the poetic part of the culture, such as the chants and stories, so oration was a part that really was looked upon as a valued skill for people to have."
Next week, Maui audiences will have a unique opportunity to experience Hawaiian poetry and spoken word in a presentation at the MACC titled "Remembering Roots and Envisioning Future." The event is a reading and performance by distinguished Hawaiian women poets Puanani Burgess, Ho'oipo DeCambra, Tamara Wong-Morrison and Mahealani Perez-Wendt.
RICHARD MARKS photo
Halau from Hawaii and Japan will compete in the Ku Mai Ka Hula competition, one of two major hula events coming to Castle Theater this month.
"Each of these women also has positions of great responsibility in their own communities, so it's wonderful for them to bring this side of themselves forward to us," Holt says.
Burgess and DeCambra are both from Waianae, Oahu, where Burgess is a community-building facilitator, and DeCambra works at a community-based mental health center. Perez-Wendt and Wong-Morrison are from Kauai, where Perez-Wendt serves as administrator and executive director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation. Wong-Morrison teaches language arts at the Volcano School of Arts and Sciences on Hawaii Island.All four women are widely recognized poetswho have won multiple awards for their literary as well as community-based work.
Joining them onstage will be 19-year-old Jamaica Osorio of Youth Speaks Hawai'i, winner of the international poetry slam competition for the past two years. This past May, Osorio recited her poetry for President and Mrs. Obama at the White House "Evening of Poetry, Music and Spoken Word" (watch her performance at www.youtube.com/watch?v=TY7fWlmE-0g).
* "Remembering Roots" takes place at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11, in the McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $20. Applicable fees are added to tickets for all MACC shows, available at the MACC box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.
As the physical representation of the mele oli, or chanted poems, hula serves as an important avenue for Hawaiian poetry. This month brings two important hula events to the MACC's Castle Theater, covering a range of styles and modes of exhibition.
The first event is the Ku Mai Ka Hula International Hula Competition at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12. The fourth annual competition features group and soloist winners from Japan along with Hawaii halau. The dancers compete in adult male and female group and solo performances in kahiko (traditional hula) and auana (modern-day hula styling), as well as an over-50 kupuna division. Tickets are $25; half-price for keiki.
Coming up later in the month is Mohala Mai 2009 "To Blossom Forth" on Saturday, Sept. 26, featuring award-winning na kumu hula Napua Greig and Kahulu Maluo-Huber with their Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka. The evening will include both traditional and contemporary hula, oli and mele. Tickets are $32.
"Sometimes we as the general public are accustomed to seeing hula in hotels, shopping centers and in our families. We tend to think, 'I know hula because I see it all the time,'" Holt says. "To us, hula is in all places; so yes, those are all expressions of hula - but so is competition, so is the concert.
"These events coming up are a wonderful time to see the different expressions of Hawaiian culture, and although we may think we know all about it, there are many aspects of spoken word and poetry that will make us have a fuller and richer understanding of the culture."
Warming up for Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" (Female Version), Maui OnStage offers a free night of Stand-Up Comedy at the Historic Iao Theater. Popular Maui radio and stage personality Kathy Collins headlines the comedy night, which takes place in conjunction with First Friday in Wailuku at 8 p.m. this week. Also strutting their funny stuff onstage will be James Shoemaker, Curtis "Chino" LaForge and Corky, along with emcee Michael Pulliam (recently seen as Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"). "The Odd Couple" opens the MOS 2009-2010 season on Friday, Sept. 18, and stars Collins as Sylvia, along with Beth Garrow, Camille Romero and Jennifer Rose. For more information, call 242-6969 or visit mauionstage.com.
Baryshnikov - yes, the Mikhail Baryshnikov - comes to the MACC's Castle Theater at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17. One of the greatest ballet dancers of the 20th century will take the stage along with Ana Laguna in works by leading ballet choreographers Mats Ek, Benjamin Millepied and Alexei Ratmansky. Now 61 years old, Baryshnikov is still in prime condition and continues his illustrious career with creative endeavors in acting, directing, photography, and of course, dance. Tickets are $12, $35, $55 and $65.
Serious tappers will be passing up the beach and barbecue this Labor Day to join renowned tap dancer Lynn Dally in the Labor Day Tap Away at the MACC's Omori Studio A. Dally is co-founder and artistic director of the Los Angeles-based Jazz Tap Ensemble, and has created over 30 original tap productions. She is featured in the documentary "Two Takes on Tap," and the award-winning film "Tap Dancin'." Dally will teach classes for three levels of ability on Monday: at 11 a.m. for beginning; 12:15 p.m. for intermediate; and 1:30 p.m. for intermediate +. The cost is $20 for the first class; $15 for additional classes. For reservations and more information, call 878-1482 or visit www.MauiTapExperience.org.
Maui Academy of Performing Arts throws its 21st annual Garden Party from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 13, on the grounds of the Yokouchi Family Estate in Wailuku. The traditional event is a fundraiser for MAPA's educational performing arts programs, and features a Chef's Festival with offerings from Maui's finest restaurants, as well as "fresh art" created onsite by well-known Maui artists. Tickets are $65 in advance, $75 at the gate, and include all food and beverages served at the event (for adults only); available by calling 244-8760 or online at www.mauiacademy.org