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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

“We’re Sharing Our Home:” Hula Group Teaches Carls

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“We’re sharing our history. We’re sharing our story. We’re sharing our home,” said members of the hula dance group Halau Kiawekupono O Ka Ua. Last weekend, The halau shared new life with campus when four of their members came to explore dance and culture with students.

Religion professor Kristin Bloomer first met Dietrix Jon Ulukoa Duhaylonsad, the kumu hula or master teacher of the Halau, when she was a professor at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. Before she left to teach at Carleton, Ulukoa, who was then her student, invited her to watch a performance and even suggested that he could visit Minnesota and perform for her new college.

Two years ago, this thought came to fruition: Ulukoa brought eight members of the Halau to perform at Carleton, with the support of the Mellon Grant. Back now again, four dancers came and delivered a more intimate show.

On Saturday, Ulukoa, along with the other Halau members taught a master dance class open to all. Students and professors began to learn a dance composed by the Ulukoa himself, first through the basic movements of the feet, then with the whole body involved, and finally with an understanding of the meaning of the dance.

This meaning—the stories and memories told through hula—was heavily emphasized in the class and performance. Ulukoa said of hula dance, “it’s the history and custom, it’s the landscape itself,” and it keeps the stories of different places in Hawai’i alive.

Julia Miller ’18, who attended the performance, said she “enjoyed the explanations of each of the dances,” as they connected the audience to the histories and visions that the dancers experience while they are on stage.

In the performance on Sunday, students saw these histories and recognized what they had learned the previous day on stage at the Weitz. The Halau danced ancient and modern hulas, both through solos and group dances, while Ulukoa performed the role of the kumu and played rhythms and music as he chanted and sang for the dancers. Miller commented that “they seemed really approachable, and the whole show just felt very fun.”

Approachable and engaged not just on stage, the Halau spent several days in classes, speaking extensively with Bloomer’s class on The Sacred Body and also with Professor Michael McNally’s course on Native American religions. They spent an evening at Dacie Moses, too, to have a potluck, “talk story” and share cultures with Bloomer’s class.

Through sharing and performance, the dancers helped to shape minds of students on campus. Sacred Body student Lauren Bailey ’15 said, “Sometimes, it’s frustrating to hit this wall of people having these actually harmful misconceptions, and so [the dancers] were really happy that they were able to educate people and bring their culture to us.”

Bailey, who is from Maui, enjoyed the experience of exploring and interacting with their Hawaiian culture from a new perspective in class, but more importantly appreciated the dancers’ wise and direct view to educate ignorance.

Bailey emphasized that in the Unit- ed States and at Carleton, stereotypes about hula exist. People easily exotify and commodify native women’s bodies through the use of problematic “hula parties” and sexualized conceptions of dances. Misunderstandings about the colonial history of Hawai’i are also commonplace. Negative intention is not the problem, but rather awareness. For Bailey, the presence of the Halau helped to begin the shift that needs to occur around thinking about Hawai’i and Hawaiian culture.

As the four men shared their culture, Bailey said “it was inspiring. I had been thinking about becoming more engaged in Hawaiian culture and about working to spread aware- ness, and they said, ‘stop thinking, and just do it!’”

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