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Where EAST meets the Northwest

CELEBRATING CULTURE. Dancers with the 前.H.A.N.A. Foundation perform at the Beaverton City Library as part of "Hawaiian Dance and Culture," an event presented by Music in Small Spaces. The show featured nearly three dozen musicians, dancers, and chanters. (AR Photos/Maileen Hamto)

From The Asian Reporter, V25, #16 (August 17, 2015), pages 1 & 11.

Poetry, dance & community reveal the real Hawai段

By Maileen Hamto

The Asian Reporter

Who is Hawai段? What does she stand for? A local group of Native Hawai段ans and friends are delving deeply into questions of identity through an intentional exploration of poetry, creation stories, song, and dance.

A collaboration between Music in Small Spaces and the 前.H.A.N.A. Foundation brought a sampler of this discourse to life at the Beaverton City Library. At center stage were members of the music and dance troupe called Ka lei Hali誕 O Ka Lokelani: children and seasoned chanters, dancers, and singers.

"The beauty of the islands lives on in many poems and stories," according to Leialoha Ka置la, founder of 前.H.A.N.A. "We learn about what each island stands for, and tell the stories of the sadness, hope, and renewal that she has gone through."

More than 13,000 Native Hawai段ans and Pacific Islanders make their home in Oregon, representing one of the fastest growing communities in the state. The growth coupled with a sincere interest in bringing authentic Hawai段an culture to music aficionados in Washington County are among the key reasons for the Music in Small Spaces exposition.

Music in Small Spaces presents musicians from the greater Portland area in a seasonal lineup of chamber and world music. With a keen focus on music education, the music producer also has featured folk and traditional musical expressions from across the globe. With a grant from the Cultural Coalition of Washington County and support from the Beaverton Arts Commission, Music in Small Spaces created an important space for Hawai段an music and stories to be heard in Washington County.

"Many people from the mainland have a Hawai段an hotel experience," said Judy Castle, founder and executive director of Music in Small Spaces. She痴 been wanting to highlight Hawai段an music for some time. "This program helps to explain the real Hawai段: the creation myths and unique points of view," Castle explained. "Hula is a lifelong study. It痴 a way of living and thinking."

There is poetry embedded in the name of the 前.H.A.N.A. Foundation, which stands as an acronym for key Hawai段an values: onipa誕, meaning steadfast; ha誕heo, or cherish with pride; alaka段na, which stands for guidance; na誕uao, knowledge; and aloha, denoting compassion.

A critical part of 前.H.A.N.A.痴 approach is providing a social support network for Native Hawai段ans and others with a deep interest in Hawai段an culture. A cornerstone of the work is supporting families and young people to build a strong and tightly knit community. Hula classes teach more than music and dance: they teach about tradition and cultural values that prioritize family, kinship, and community.

"One of the main themes of Hawai段an poetry and dance is family. Love your family, always be there for them, and know they will always be there for you," said Ka置la.

前.H.A.N.A. connects children and adults in exploring and celebrating culture, language, song, and movement arts. Kei談i the children learn more than song and dance. "They learn movement and rhythm. They learn traditions, and the importance of paying attention and behaving appropriately," said Castle, who attended several 前.H.A.N.A. classes in preparation for the show.

The auditorium at the Beaverton City Library came alive with songs and chants from the islands. The chosen venue was perfect for hula, said Ka置la. "We do big shows, dancing for over 1,000 people. Sometimes, hula gets lost in a crowd like that," she said. "In a smaller and more intimate space, you really feel the appreciation from the audience."

Ka置la has been involved in creating, teaching, and preserving the artistry of hula in Oregon. A lifelong student of the art, she also comes from a hula dynasty that involved both sides of her family.

"The greatest gift that anyone can give is a song or a mele that痴 something that can never be taken away," Ka置la explained. "Hula is sacred; it keeps our stories alive."

The Beaverton show combined modern and traditional meles songs that speak of new birth, commemorating the time of conquest and overthrow.

"Many songs and stories speak about the time of sorrow, time of pain, and sadness," said Ka置la. "But there痴 also always remembering that there is a new day. We choose to learn from history, and our people have learned to evolve and to continue our culture."

Every year, 前.H.A.N.A. works on a public performance that highlights the collective work of the dance group for the entire season. This year痴 theme Ku置 One Hanau (Sands of My Birth) challenges the dancers and chanters to expand their understanding of Hawai段. The work builds upon last year痴 theme, when the group focused on mele and hula that told creation stories involving spirituality and deities of the islands.

"Teaching the next generation about the gifts of hula helps them remember where we came from to be proud and hold strong to our roots so they can continue our traditions and culture," she said.

An important part of the learning journey is a homecoming trip. "Every year, a group of us dancers go back to the islands, to physically see and feel what it痴 like to be Hawai段. It痴 not just an island, and much more than just a state. The legends and stories of the ancestral lands are much deeper."

Ka置la invites Oregonians to the 前.H.A.N.A.痴 Foundation痴 sixth annual "E Ala E" rise up a hula exhibition scheduled for Saturday, October 3 at Alpenrose Dairy痴 Opera House. The event also represents the organization痴 main fundraiser for the year, with proceeds benefitting the cultural preservation works of the foundation.

"Each island in Hawai段 has its own mo弛lelo, its own story, and dancers are digging into that identity," she said. "We want to share our stories, and inspire our audiences to see Hawai段 beyond the paradise, and learn about what Hawai段 really stands for."

To learn more about the 前.H.A.N.A. Foundation, visit <www.ohanafoundationpdx.org>. For more information about Music in Small Spaces, call (503) 644-0712 or visit <www.musicinsmallspaces.org>.

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