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

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

Thursday, May 27, 2010


We have a friendly little hula competition coming up in a few weeks, to benefit the class that's raising money for their cultural immersion trip to Hawai'i (it will be my class's turn in a few years)... and I cleverly managed to volunteer to do a solo without being fully aware of what it entailed.

Let me explain: the last time our halau did this, the soloists were chosen by their classmates - three per class - and they worked with our Kumu on a dance they'd already learned. And my class didn't take part, as we were still hula babies. This time around, it was up to us to volunteer if we wanted to do a solo, and to do it in drag. And the capper - the thing I didn't realize when I tentatively threw my hat in the ring (which was taken as a commitment!) - is that we have to choreograph our solos ourselves. We can't dance something we already know.

Oh. My. GOD. My mouth went dry when we learned this. I'd planned to do a funny (hopefully), hammy, butch-y version of a dance I know and love in a really 70's wig with sideburns - figured I had to do something outrageous to compete with any of my hot hula brothers in drag, y'know? I was not expecting this.

In my youth, I choreographed a fair number of dances, but with jazz and modern dance, my main concern was making the moves fit the music and the mood of the music. With hula, you're telling a story, and there's a vocabulary involved, and I was - am - unsure if my hula vocabulary is extensive enough to choreograph ANYTHING.

And to add to my stress, I had no idea what song I wanted to use. I knew I couldn't manage to pull off anything overly serious - I need to strive for sassy and fun so that my "performing" skills will carry me through the gaps in my choreographic abilities, not to mention the fact that a guy in drag is inherently more entertaining than a woman in drag. And I need a song that included at least some words that fit my hula vocabulary. I spent days listening to some of my favorite songs, trying to figure out whether any of them would work, especially songs that make me want to dance, period.

I also need to use something that has very little instrumental time. Again, with hula, you're telling a story. You need words. There is no hula without the poetry, though my Kumu is renowned for using pop and electronica music in his shows. I could never in a million years dream of coming close to accomplishing even a fraction of what he's done (I'm posting an example below to show you what I mean).

It finally hit me: go classic. Something from the Great American Songbook.

It's sassy. It's short. It's a song I adore. There's not much instrumental time. There are moves we've learned that work with some of the lyrics. I can come up with a simple, yet completely appropriate costume. Once I found the song, I finally felt confident that I would't completely embarrass myself on stage.

The only trouble is, I haven't had much time to work on it. I have little bits and pieces of it done, but there's much more to do. I don't have the costume together. And I'm also dancing in a comedic number with a group of my hula sisters in this competition, and that's been taking up a lot of what little spare time I've had the last few weeks.

It's safe to say I'm sufficiently freaked out about this, and am really thrilled to have a three-day weekend ahead, because I really need to get serious about my solo.

The good thing, as one of my hula sisters pointed out, is that if I screw up my own choreography on stage, I'll be the only one who knows it!

Deep, cleansing breaths...

And here's an example of what my Kumu does - this video's a great juxtaposition of ancient, traditional hula and his "hula mua," or evolving, style. (It was really windy at this performance....) The fact that it looks easy is a testament to the skills of the dancers. They're spectacular.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A little lesson in hula hubris?

So we had a little performance last weekend. It was a fundraiser for the elementary school that's home to our halau, and each class did a short program. At first, our Kumu had made it sound like it would be a pretty casual event, but he loves to put on a show, so as the date drew nearer, the production became a little more formal, and included our full costumes and accessories. And we - meaning the group of women with whom I did that special dance in the big show last October - were asked to reprise that dance. That was a surprise, and an honor.

But because we have a special (gorgeous) costume for that dance, it meant we were going to have to miss out on several other dances. This was a short show, and there wasn't enough time for lengthy costume changes. In fact, while we were on stage, our hula siblings all had to run back and change rapidly for the next number, which we then missed because we were changing. And I'll admit,I felt a little pissy about that at first. Two of the dances we were missing are among my favorites, and I love doing them.

I had to stop myself for a moment and remember that it was an honor to be asked to dance in the smaller group again. It meant we did well last October. And it meant I got to spend extra time with those amazing women once again. (A few members of the group weren't able to dance in the show this time, though, so we had to press on without them.)

But I think my initial pissyness had a pricetag. For our performance, I had to make a small lei to wrap around the bun I would have in my hair for this dance. Part of the reason we make our own accessories is because we are placing our "mana" in them as we create them - our power, our spirit. And I'm not exaggerating when I say I am really, REALLY bad at crafts, but I've made two larger head leis in a similar manner in the past year, so I know how to do it, and actually understand the process much better now. Those other leis actually came out well, and I was very proud of them.  But this time, I got about halfway through and had to start over because the flowers and greenery kept falling out. I kept breaking stems. I had trouble all the way through, so it took me a lot longer than I expected, but it looked pretty when it was finished. I was happy with the result, though now, in retrospect, I should perhaps have seen the trouble I had as a sign.*

And then it came time for us to dance. We had been having trouble with the chant that accompanies the dance - we have to harmonize, and we struggled with that in the weeks leading up to the performance, but as we practiced before the show, we seemed to have finally gotten into the groove. But once we got on stage, after our entrance chant (which was fine) we lost it. We didn't sound right. I kept struggling to try to adjust properly, but none of us could identify the problem or correct it. The dance seemed to be fine, but our chanting was not.**

Let me tell you, that was a silent run to the dressing room to change. What the audience (made up of friends, family, and members of other classes) heard while we were on stage was our hearts breaking. We were so disappointed with ourselves, especially since our performances in October seemed to go so well. I wanted to cry, but the show had to go on.

I think that was karma kicking me in the ass. Message received. Full humility restored. And just in time, because I've taken on another hula challenge...

* I've kept the other leis I've made on display, and they've held up surprisingly well. The flowers and greenery have already started falling out of this one!
**One of the women who helps to run the halau had kind words for us afterwards, saying if we'd sounded really terrible, Kumu would have started chanting to guide us. And she said we didn't let the trouble show in the dance itself, which was fine. I'm comforted by that, but am still terribly disappointed in myself.