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.