World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Academy of Hawaiian Arts

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Kumu Hula Mark Keali‘i Ho‘omalu
First appearance in SF EDF: 2014

Academy of Hawaiian Arts is a nonprofit, incorporated in 2003. Kumu Hula Mark Keali‘i Ho‘omalu has taught hula in the Bay Area since 1979 when he moved from Aiea, Hawai‘i. In 1983, he was invited to participate in the Merrie Monarch Festival, in Hilo, Hawai‘i, considered the Olympics of hula, and has since been invited back to the Merrie Monarch numerous times, most recently in April. Very few Hawaiian artists outside of Hawai‘i are invited to participate in this prestigious event, and Kumu Mark is revered by many as one of the great creative innovators in hula. He is known to many through his music created for the Disney film “Lilo & Stitch,” which included “He Mele No Lilo”, performed by Ho‘omalu with the help of the Kamehameha Schools Children’s Chorus. Kumu Hula Patrick Makuakāne of San Francisco’s Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu writes Kumu Mark “has clearly broken the mold, crafting a unique aesthetic that is visceral, aggressive, and unequivocally commanding.”


Wai‘oli; Aloha e Ke Kai ‘O Kalalau; E Ho‘i Ke Aloha I Ni‘ihau; Maika‘i Kaua‘i; Halekauila
Kumu Hula Mark Keali‘i Ho‘omalu
Johnelle Baculpo, Martini Eke, Oliver Eusebio, Christina Fua, Stephanie Gonsalves, Sarah Ho, Maile Ho‘omalu, Micah Ho‘omalu, Jazzlyn Kaleohano, Jennifer Santos, Aileen Sapiandante, Art Sapiandante
Kamali‘i Bingham, Samantha Briseno, Helene Campbell, Marlo Caramat, Brian Fitz, Chris Haw, Charles Ho‘omalu, Kolu Ho‘omalu, Melia Ho‘omalu, Nicole Jung, Stacy Kaleikini, Pono Kaleohano, Yoko Kojima, Byron Pulu, Sierra Steinwert, Alawna Sullivan, Alayah Torres, Annie Torres, Malia Villanueva, Asia Wang
Kumu Hula Mark Keali‘i Ho‘omalu (ipu heke, vocals)

Kumu Hula Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu is known as an intellectual historian of hula. Like a master sculptor he begins, abandons, breaks, discard, recovers—and presents—powerful visions of indigenous Hawaiʻi. He leads this performance with oli, mele, and drum.

This hula selection uniquely reflects the Kalākaua-era in poetic styling. One of the dances presented today honors High Chief Kaumualiʻi—the last independent ruler of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau. An honoree of a mele is often compared to the beauty and grandeur of his or her island home.

Throughout its history, hula as the native dance of Hawaiʻi has been revered and rejected, praised and prohibited. Descriptions of its grace and beauty were noted in the journals of Captain James Cook, the first westerner to make contact (1774). But by 1820, with the arrival of missionaries and foreign beliefs, hula was deemed dangerous, a heathen dance to honor old gods and rulers, living, dead, or deified. For fifty years, public hula performances were banned. Secretly, traditions were kept alive, and they surfaced again publicly in 1883, at the coronation and jubilee of King David Kalākaua. In his words, “Hula is the language of the heart, and therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.”

In describing the company’s costumes, Hoʻomalu writes: “Western contact had an unavoidably crippling effect on Hawaiian culture, changing centuries of indigenous developments, language, cultural traditions and beliefs. Traditional clothing and adornments suffered greatly. In the late 1800s, Hawaiian sovereigns sailed abroad, and the best-known traveler was the Merrie Monarch, King David Kalākaua, reputably responsible for influencing the revival of hula and other Hawaiian cultural practices. During this renaissance period came the introduction of unique fashions from around the world. Today, in Hawaiian dance, European and non-native regalia is still commonly referred to as ‘of the Kalākaua era.’”


TITLE: He Mele No Kamohoali‘i; Hole Waimea; Waika
GENRE: Hula kahiko
DANCERS: Julia Akoteu, Ariana Amanoni, Joe Ku‘e Angeles, Johnelle Baculpo, Brandon Baroman, Marlo Caramat, Kimberly Dalisay, Martini Eke, Oliver Eseubio,
Brian Fitz, Edward Guillermo, Chris Haw, Stephanie Ho, Maile Ho‘omalu, Micah
Ho‘omalu, Andrew Ignacio, Stacey Kaleikini, Jazzlyn Kaleohano, Josette Kaleohano, Mark Luke, Cynthia Manley, Brendan McDougall, Glen Prieto, Marissa Saito, Aileen Sapiandante, Art Sapiandante, Asia Wang

Once challenged by Hawai‘i’s cultural revivalist Kumu Darrell Lupenui “to create his own [hula]” Kumu Hula Mark Keali‘i Ho‘omalu has done just that, and he is now an intellectual historian of the form. Like a master sculptor he begins, abandons, breaks, discards, recovers—and presents—his powerful visions of indigenous Hawai‘i.

Hula tells history in song and dance, and Kumu Mark leads the performance with mele, chant, and drum. When asked what this dance is about, he says, “First the kumu must find the diamond—the mele music and dance. Then, through training, the dancers become the sparkle—each motion representative of the mele. If you watch, you will understand the meaning. When you see the warriors of a great king cutting staffs to make spears; or watch a pig god fight the volcano goddess—you’ll know it’s an aggressive movement.

“Everyone thinks hula is about love and beauty… but we are a warrior people and we spread out love in our own way. This is an aggressive dance. The trinity is to entertain, inspire, and instruct: it’s not even a dance form—we pound ground.

“Hula is everywhere, in us and all around. You can watch the wind blow, the dust blow, the clouds. Leaves on the trees dance hula, or like a lion, sometimes we slow it down. It’s poetry in movement, and it tastes good too.”

Performances of hula require great physical and mental stamina. Kumu Mark trains his dancers strenuously and says his dancers are allowed only “three beads of sweat” on stage. His dancers train hard, running many miles before getting to the dance. Kumu Mark is not only the group’s choreographer, but is also the designer of the costumes and adornments. The wahine—women’s—costumes accentuate the hips with hand-dyed/tattooed pa‘u he‘e wrappings. Indigenous Hawaiians wore belly guards and shields; kings wore impermeable feather capes; the flower or leaf leis embody dancers with the spiritual mana of the goddess of dancing.

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