Keiki learn storytelling through hula

| November 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

 

Janessa Aguilar (front) practices a hula number, during the Hula Intermediate class (Pua Lehua) at Aliamanu Military Reservation, Oct. 22, 2016. Aguilar, 9, enjoys dancing ÒHaleiwa Hula.Ó Kumu Ululani Duncan (left), watches her class as it practices. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

Janessa Aguilar (front) practices a hula number, during the Hula Intermediate class (Pua Lehua) at Aliamanu Military Reservation,

Story and photos by
Kristen Wong
Contributing Writer
ALIAMANU MILITARY RESERVATION — On a Saturday morning, as parents and relatives sit outside the glass doors, here, at the SKIES Studio, a new story waits to be told.

Children, barefoot on the carpet, hands on their hips, await instruction from their kumu.
Kumu, the Hawaiian word for teacher, is what they call Ululani Duncan. She is the hula instructor for the SKIES Unlimited Program.

She turns on the music and guides children through a new song. The children watch her moves carefully, following her, as best they can.

Kumu Ululani Duncan, the hula instructor for SKIES Unlimited, teaches her Hula Novice class (Pua Melia) at Aliamanu Military Reservation, Oct. 22, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

Kumu Ululani Duncan, the hula instructor for SKIES Unlimited, teaches her Hula Novice class (Pua Melia).

Learning process
“It’s a little confusing, at first, to learn new songs, but then you sort of get it, and it’s easier,” said Maci McGrath, a student in the Hula Novice class.

McGrath recently started taking lessons when her mother found out there were classes available. Through hula class, McGrath said she not only learned to dance, but also learned Hawaiian words as well. She said it was “really cool” that hula was about telling stories while dancing.

In cases such as competitive hula, being precise is crucial. Duncan said she would rather children learn the way they are comfortable. She said children were surprised that she once told them she was more comfortable performing an ‘ami, which is a hip rotation, in a certain direction, even though ‘ami is usually dictated by the song or the instructor.

“Embrace your mistakes,” Duncan said. “Embrace going the wrong way. The thing that matters the most is, are you enjoying yourself? Are you smiling? That’s what matters to me.”

Naomi Johnson rides an imaginary wave as she and her classmates dance to ÒHawaiian Roller Coaster RideÓ during the Hula Novice class (Pua Melia) here, Oct. 22, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

Naomi Johnson rides an imaginary wave as she and her classmates dance to Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride during the Hula Novice class.

SKIES initiative
The SKIES Unlimited Program offers keiki, novice and intermediate classes in hula for children ages 3 to 18 years old. The advanced class is not available until January due to low enrollment. Classes for Hula O Na Pua Koa are held Wednesday afternoons at the SKIES Schofield Barracks Studio, and Saturday mornings, here.

Duncan has been dancing hula since the age of 3. She has been teaching hula classes with the SKIES program for 10 years.

I’m very pleased with what I’ve been able to accomplish,” she said of her program.
Duncan said she has been able to build relationships with military children through her classes, while they are able to learn about and enjoy Hawaiian culture in addition to hula.
Her program even bears a Hawaiian name, Hula O Na Pua Koa, or “Hula of Children of the Warrior.” Each class is named after a Hawaiian flower, the word “pua” meaning “flower” in Hawaiian.

The students generally dance a summer and winter recital, but have had the opportunity to perform in other venues. For instance, Duncan said her classes have danced at Kids Day and the Travel and Leisure Fair.

In 2010, when “Napua Koa,” the School Age Center, was dedicated at Schofield Barracks, Duncan was asked to have her hula classes perform for the event.
“I felt really proud for the girls,” Duncan said.

161022-m-th981-004Beginnings
On the first day of class, Duncan would like students to bring their receipt to ensure they are in the correct class for which they are enrolled. She suggests keiki wear comfortable clothing and bring a bottle of water. Students with long hair may also want to put their hair up for class.

Janessa Aguilar has been dancing in the Hula Intermediate class for a few months. She said the most challenging part about dancing hula is keeping her shoulders straight and not bouncing. The 9-year-old enjoys dancing to “Haleiwa Hula,” one of the numbers Duncan teaches in class.

“I like the dance moves,” Aguilar said. “I like how the song goes and I like the lyrics.”
Aguilar said hula is interesting and a fun way to learn about culture and get exercise.
Though she may not see her students for very long, Duncan said she hopes to give them a foundation that “lasts them a lifetime.”

For some students, hula does not end upon leaving the island. She recalled a student who had to move away before the class was scheduled to perform. In addition to staying in touch with Duncan, the student performed the hula she had practiced in front of her family, instead. She said it was a proud moment for her.

With a son serving in the Navy, Duncan said she has learned what the children go through with constant moves, and she strives to “give them as much aloha as I can give them while they’re in my class.”

SKIES Classes
Hula classes are offered Wednesdays at the Schofield Barracks studio and Saturdays at Aliamanu Military Reservation studio for children ages 3 to 18 years old.
Children can register for Keiki Hula (Pua Lokelani), Hula Novice (Pua Melia) or Hula Intermediate (Pua Lehua).
Students should be registered with Child, Youth & School Services. For information, call (808) 655-8380 for SB and (808) 833-5393 for AMR.
Parents are asked to register their child by the 30th of the month prior to their starting month.

Online
The SKIES Unlimited Program can be found at https://hawaii.armymwr.com/pacific/hawaii/pro grams/skies-unlimited.

 

Kumu Ululani Duncan, the hula instructor for SKIES Unlimited, teaches her Hula Intermediate class (Pua Lehua) at Aliamanu Military Reservation, Oct. 22, 2016. The children are practicing dancing with ÔuliÔuli feather gourd rattles. Because the feathers fall off very easily, the children perform with, but practice without them. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

Kumu Ululani Duncan, the hula instructor for SKIES Unlimited, teaches her Hula Intermediate class (Pua Lehua) at Aliamanu Military Reservation, Oct. 22, 2016. The children are practicing dancing with ÔuliÔuli feather gourd rattles. Because the feathers fall off very easily, the children perform with, but practice without them. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)

 

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