Friday, January 12, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 12, 2001

'Kilohi' show is a look at hula's deities

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Although both men and women perform the hula, the dance owes a great deal of its power to the female. Those in the hula world know its principal deities are goddesses, but not much of that is well understood.

Kilohi: Na Akua Wahine’

7 p.m. tomorrow; 1 p.m. Sunday

Hawaii Theatre


Charge by phone: 528-0506


Even those who study hula have felt the need to explore this more deeply. A group of kumu hula planning a World Conference on Hula this summer in Hilo found themselves wondering, too.

"When we were discussing what kind of workshops we would like for the conference, a question came up about: Isn’t it interesting that the hula deities are female?’" said one of the teachers, Maui’s Hokulani Holt-Padilla. "After that came, Well, how come?’"

She and Pualani Kanahele of Hilo and Oahu’s Leinaala Kalama Heine kept on talking about it, and although the precise answers were elusive, they decided dancing about it would be a better form of inquiry. They devised this weekend’s "Kilohi: Na Akua Wahine," a two-night performance at the Hawaii Theatre, as an event to educate the hula-loving public a bit and to generate both revenue and a centerpiece production for the summer conference.

The production uses chant, dance and dramatization to depict the various goddesses central to life, not only hula, in pre-contact times. The opening, one of five acts, uses part of the Hawaiian creation chant, the "Kumulipo," to develop imagery of the goddesses Haumea, the matriarch of all deities, and Papa, the mother of the chiefly class.

Kanahele, Holt-Padilla and Heine are directors on the boards of the Edith Kanakaole Foundation and the Lalakea Foundation, sponsors of the production and the summer conference. They will feature their respective hula schools — Halau O Kekuhi, Pau O Hiiaka and Na Pualei O Likolehua — as well as Pali Ahue and Na Maile Kuhonua, who, like Holt-Padilla, also come from Maui.

All the halau will appear in the opening and in the finale section on the goddess Hina, the deity of women’s hana noeau, or skilled work.

Kanahele’s students will perform a newly choreographed section about Pele and Hiiaka (Halau O Kekuhi specializes in chants of the volcano deity and her sister). The main thread is the story of Pele traveling to Kauai and chanting about the varied winds of the island. When Pele returns home, Kanahele said, the dancers can be seen preparing for the eruption that inevitably follows her travels, ritually staking out protected properties with lepa, or flags.

The Maui group will perform a sequence on Pele’s lesser-known sister, Kapoulakinau, sorceress and goddess of hula kapu, those dances performed only in restricted circumstances. Heine’s students have chosen chants to the Laka, the principal goddess of hula.

"We don't give enough credit to these deities," Kanahele said. "For many of us who do hula, we didn't know that much about Haumea. It was a good way for us to get to know it, bring it out into the public."

The production also reminds people that chants are the original repository of information about ancient times, Kanahele added.

"We tend to read the same old books over and over," she said. "It's a good way for us to tell most of the people that if you want more information, all of the information is in chants."

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