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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 17, 2002

Ho'okena brings out the dancer in Dudoit

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

 •  Ho'okena

Part of the Hana Hou series

Also featuring the exotica of "The Forbidden World of Don Tiki"; Ka Pa Hula O Kauanoe O Wa'ahila (kumu Maelia Loebenstein Carter); and falsetto Raiatea Helm from Moloka'i

8 p.m. today

Hawai'i Theatre



Nani Dudoit, a hula dancer since her Kamehameha Schools days, is somewhat retired from the nightlife scene. 'Ohana beckoned, that's why.

"I took a break from halau a couple of years ago, deciding I needed to spend time with my family," said Dudoit, mother of three boys: Bryson, 17, Kalei, 12, and Kaipo, 8. "They all dance, because they have the entertainer blood in them. They're a little shy, but once on stage, it's OK."

Dudoit's only "regular" stint is with Ho'okena, the popular vocal fivesome featured in the next Hana Hou evening of Hawaiiana Friday at Hawai'i Theatre. But that's because of 'ohana.

"That's not too bad," Dudoit said of adding the hula syncopation and beauty to the Ho'okena shows. "It's still family. Makes life easier because often I get to travel."

Dudoit is married to guitarist-singer Horace Dudoit, a founding member of Ho'okena. They just did a May Day concert together in Las Vegas, she said; it's enough to keep her foot in the hula door, but not enough to become a burden. By day, she works at Kamehameha Schools in the kindergarten-to-grade-3 reading program.

The couple met while dancing — he used to dance hula, too — "and he saw the spark. He had to woo me, but our interests were so much alike. Hawaiian music. Dancing hula. A good match."

She and Horace occasionally talk shop at home. "Once in a while, if he has a problem composing music, he'll ask me what I think of a melody or rhythm," Dudoit said.

They seldom perform hula on stage together; if he leaves the ranks to dance, it's usually impromptu. "You know, Manu (Boyd) is the (male) dancer in the band."

Leina'ala Kalama Heine, Dudoit's hula teacher at Kamehameha and kumu hula, tapped her to join Na Pualei O Likolehua when she was 15.

"At that age, you're a sponge, soaking up all there is about hula. It was my life," Dudoit said. "It's been 25 years now since that time and I have learned so much about the culture and language, and hula has built up my self-confidence."

With her Na Pualei connection, Dudoit became a featured dancer in the Brothers Cazimero shows — May Day, Royal Hawaiian Hotel and other places. Before her marriage 16 years ago, she danced as Nani Parilla.

"It's a shame there's not that much (solo) hula in Waikiki anymore," Dudoit said. "There are a few nightspots, but only a few showrooms left. Only in big concerts do you really get to enjoy a soloist."

With Ho'okena, she works on the group's musical agenda, with some input on which numbers get the hula treatment.

"Ho'okena's music just moves me," she said. "It inspires me to dance. (It) brings out the emotions, and that's what I love about hula — you really get to emote.

"For me, the real joy is when I know I make people happy ... or make them cry. When they feel the same emotion I feel."