Rae Fonseca's hula halau to press on amid sadness
By Wanda A. Adams
Assistant Features Editor
Despite the sudden death of their teacher and mentor, students of the late kumu hula Rae Kahikilaulani Fonseca will persevere, by performing as planned at two events next month.
Hula Hālau O Kahikilaulani will appear first at a special tribute to Fonseca's teacher, Uncle George Na'ope, on April 4 in Hilo's Civic Auditorium, followed by the Merrie Monarch Festival hula competition April 8 to 10 at the Edith Kanaka'ole Stadium in Hilo.
"Kumu would have said the show must go on," said Jacqueline "Skylark" Rosetti of Hilo, a longtime friend of Fonseca, who died Saturday after performing at a hula festival at Ko Olina.
Nahoku Gaspang of O'ahu, a student of Fonseca's for 32 years, said there is discussion of an O'ahu memorial later this month, but no definite plans at this time.
"He means the world to me. Everything in my life I do is because of him. I am still in shock," Gaspang said.
Emery Li'ili'iokalani Aceret, 50, of Hilo, who studied with Fonseca for more than 20 years, said the upcoming festival promises to be memorable on a number of levels.
"It's going to be bittersweet and yet it's going to be so powerful and spectacular, like no other Merrie Monarch has ever been because all of their spirits will be there at this time," he said.
Aceret made the decision to study hula relatively late in life, in his 20s, while watching Fonseca's hālau perform at the Merrie Monarch. Today, he has his own hula school, Hālau Na Pua O Uluhaimalama, a name given to him by Fonseca, meaning to offer inspiration or to be inspired.
Rosetti met up with Hula Hālau O Kahikilaulani in Japan recently and said the relationship between the students and their teacher was exceptional.
"He had the most unique ability. You went to him and you didn't know how to dance and he made a dancer out of you," she said.