Dork-o-Rama: The Random Thoughts of a Total Goofball

Embracing the Dork Side....Because Life is Too Short to Take Yourself Too Seriously

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Not sure I have the words...

  • describe that amazing hula-filled weekend, which is ironic, because, as Kumu likes to remind us, there is no hula without words.
  • You will, however, find lots of words here, poorly organized.
I didn't think any hula experience could top last year's big recital, which was our "public" unveiling. I never really wrote in depth about that experience because I couldn't explain why it was so overwhelming. Unexpectedly so.

I was wrong. This was so much bigger. It involved our entire halau, from the dance company to we "beginners" (funny that after three years, we're still considered beginners!). The 260 (give or take) of us were on a stage where professionals perform, in a theatre where I've sat and audienced* many, many times. In fact, I was there just a few weeks before our performances and was really daunted looking at that stage, realizing I'd be there very soon.

It was a bonding experience like no other, and not just because there were dozens of us in the same dressing room! Seriously - there were about 50-60 of us sharing one dressing room. I don't think I've ever been so sweaty and so naked in front of so many people. Ever.

Here are some of us in that dressing room before the dress rehearsal on the first performance day. Before the torrential sweat on me, and only after some brief nudity.

It was not unlike a slumber party, in that we all helped each other dress, put on makeup, worked on each other's hair, practiced our dances, and laughed ourselves silly. The only thing missing was the pillow fight and the freezing of the bra of the first person to fall asleep.

What was truly amazing was how we all came together to make everything work. Everyone took such good care of each other. You rarely had to ask for help, because people were either already offering help or just doing what needed to be done. It could have been really hard having that many people in so little space with so many costumes, accessories, and hula implements, but it worked with little difficulty.

It gave me the room to really focus on my dancing. Well, no - I was trying to focus on my expression while dancing. I know the steps to each of these dances well, so I figured if I just took my brain out that equation and let my muscle memory handle that, I'd be fine. The real game-changer is what goes on on your face in hula. something Kumu's been trying to drill into our minds for as long as I can remember. So every time I set foot on stage, I tried to remember all he's told us, and to really feel what each song or chant was about.

It was really helpful to have seen the dance company perform the week before, as I got an excellent reminder of what Kumu's been talking about. I was bound and determined not to have an empty smile on my face for the 'auana (modern) dances, and to really pour everything I had into our kahiko (ancient) dances, especially the hula ma'i, which procreation. I think it's easy to forget that we're not just dancing, but telling stories in hula.

Speaking of expressive dancers, that's my gorgeous hula sister Felicia with me, prepping for our kahiko hula segment. It's impossible not to watch while she dances, and not just because she's so stunning. She's such a beautiful dancer. I aspire to dance as well as she does.

But these performances really weren't about us as individuals, but us as a group. The goal is always to connect, to really feel each other's energy, and to dance as if we are one. Not always easy when you're in a group of 90 people.

I had some nerve-wracking moments during our tech rehearsals, when I realized that when the second act started, the first thing the audience would see was me. I was seated front and center for our hula noho, and the split in the curtain was about a foot from my face. The first time it opened in rehearsal, I said under my breath, "holy shit!" As I said in a previous post, the opening of that curtain took my breath away. My view was of this big black expanse, with lights that brightened the wider the curtain got. It was scary.

But here's what was so stunning: by the time of our first performance, I was no longer nervous, because I could FEEL the amazing energy of the 88 people around and behind me. It was awesome. Powerful. I wish I could have taken a camera on stage with me to show you the view I had as we were setting our positions during intermission. It was spectacular, with everyone in their costumes and their greenery. And the dance felt easier than it ever had because I felt the power of the group. It was one of many transcendent moments of the weekend.

That's my lovely hula sister Belinda with me. She's one of the funniest people I've ever met and has a laugh that's as infectious as her gorgeous smile. We must look weird when we go out together because of that height differential (I'm seated here!).

How can I describe to you the experience of the special dance I was a part of, Lili'u E? I get teary-eyed everytime I think about it.

Sweaty me and my lovely hula sister Katrina, ready for Lili'u E. Those stunning leis were given to us at the end of the last performance, as a gift. Because getting to do this dance wasn't gift enough!

As I mentioned in a previous post, we spent a lot of time working on this dance together to really make it everything it could be. We had to learn a new chant for our stage entrance, and had to learn to get into noho (that seated hula position again) together, and then chant and dance as though we were swimming (we keep calling ourselves the Lili'u E Swim Team). All of those hours working together really bonded us, but also made the dance something really special.

At least, that's the feedback we've gotten. I really have no idea how it looked and sounded to the audience, but I can tell you how it felt: powerful and effortless, by the time we took the stage. By then, it felt like second-nature to dance with these eight women as though we were one, in honor of a great woman. And because I was behind them all -- we had kind of a diamond formation -- I could see all of them as we danced. It was a gorgeous sight, one I'll never forget.

We took a moment in the wings before each performance to gather and hold hands for a "pule," which means prayer. We didn't actually pray, but took the time to recognize how special this was to each of us, and to connect once more before stepping on the stage. One of the people who helps run the halau, who also helped us prepare for this dance joined us, and his words of support and encouragement were so touching and heartfelt that I'm tearing up again just thinking about them.

And the response from our hula siblings was amazing. If anyone still had hurt feelings about not getting chosen for this, it didn't show. Not only did our hula sisters help us get into these costumes, complete with a total hairstyle change, they helped us get out of them and back into those floral dresses you see in those 'auana pictures, in the span of two songs. They lined up outside our dressing room to cheer for us as we returned. They reworked our hair for our final dance. And no one complained about how sweaty I was! (Seriously, I was so sweaty that the greenery kept sticking to me and I couldn't get it off. On Saturday night, I went home with a maile leaf in my bra.)

We also had help from the women of the performing group, who were such a calming. supportive presence. They essentially directed those fast costume changes, and made them so much easier than I thought they'd be. And they kept complimenting our chanting on Lili'u E, which was high praise indeed. These are women who've been dancing hula most of their lives and they are phenomenal on stage. And off.

I can't express enough how lucky I feel to have been part of Lili'u E. During class last week, when we were sharing our thoughts about the performances, we got a big cheer from our hula siblings yet again and we all teared up yet again. It's striking that we ALL feel the same way about this experience. The emails we've sent each other since the big weekend have been overflowing with emotion and love. We keep joking that there's no crying in hula, but we're ridiculous with the tears...!

Remember when I was talking about what a freak I felt like dancing between two extremely gorgeous women? That's them on either side of me in this picture, Arlene and Christy (and our lovely sis Tina on the end). All wonderful women, and I was lucky to dance between such warm, lovely spirits.

It felt very much like being in a cocoon of Aloha all weekend, and as exhausted as I was when it was over, I was sorry to leave that cocoon. My hula brothers and sisters seem equally as reluctant to leave it, so it feels like we're trying to bring that feeling to class. Class has always been a special place, but we're now even closer than before, and I think that will make that slightly dingy and cold multi-purpose room at a local elementary school feel even more like my special happy place.

I think I've said this before, but it bears repeating - I can't believe I didn't know any of these people 3 1/2 years ago, because now I can't imagine my life without them. What a gift hula is.

(I'll post some more pics soon.)

*i know that's not a word. i don't care.

At 09 November, 2009 06:19, Blogger The Savage said...

There is much awesomeness in your post. I'm glad that you share you experiences....


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