September marks the 10th anniversary of Halau I Ka Pono and my 15th year of teaching hula in Oak Park, IL, a Chicago suburb. Like the rich moss growing on the elm tree outside my window, it's been a good and beautiful decade. Hula is life and no matter what - great sadness included - it has been a decade abundant with heartfulness.
Last month Kumu Hula Kuana Torres Kahele came to our Halau and zen center to teach a hula kahiko (ancient dance) for Poliʻahu and Mauna Kea. Poliʻahu is the snow goddess who lives at the top of Mauna Kea. Poliʻahu is also known as the deity of compassion. I particularly loved this hula pahu (drum dance).
Kumu Kuana is a kind, generous and very talented man. I introduced him to Avalokiteshvara, our Buddhist deity of compassion, who sits in our Buddha Hall where we meditate and also dance hula. It seemed perfect to have Avalokiteshvara watching thirty dancers learn this hula for the Hawaiian deity of compassion.
This hula for Poliʻahu is so relevant as we watch and cheer the Protectors on Mauna Kea. It's been over 50 days that they've blocked the road to people who want to build a thirty meter telescope at the top of their sacred mountain! It's been moving to watch on Facebook all the Hawaiian spiritual practices they perform three times a day there. Visiting Hawaiians from different islands come to support the Protectors. They speak in their native tongues and share oli (chants) and hula. International visitors, celebrities, many Kumu hula and their Halau have also come.
It's a beautiful thing to watch this resurgence of Hawaiian aloha and support. Something deep is swirling there and changing our concepts of land ownership and indigenous consent.
We are sharing this Poliʻahu hula at our 10th Anniversary Performance on Saturday, September 21, 2019 at 3 pm in our new home at 46 Lake St. in Oak Park. Please join us. I'm so happy our brother Jason Poole, now a father and living in Pennsylvania, will also be with us.
Meeting Kumu Kuana reinvigorated my practice of hula. Though my roots are on Hawaii Island, the land of my birth, I now call Oak Park my home after living here for 15 years. It's a different culture and landscape. But the Halau keeps the aloha spirit alive and well here in Chicagoland.
We are so fortunate to have keiki (children) who love dancing hula in the halau joining our core of women. Four of the women are in their eighties and still dancing strong. One of these women is also legally blind and does hula sitting regally in a chair. We also now have men.
My gratitude goes also to my Kumu Hula Michael Pili Pang, without whom I wouldn't be dancing today in the midst of so many. I'm fortunate to also have kumu hula sisters whom I've danced with for many years. They support me from afar. When I come home to Hawaii Island they refresh me with the dances we have done all our hula lives.
I send special blessings to everyone who has danced with Halau I Ka Pono. May your lives be be strong and full of aloha!
June Kaililani Tanoue
Kumu Hula and Sensei