Monday, August 30, 2004


Beloved dance teacher
made hula accessible

On a Sunday afternoon earlier this month, 35 people jammed into Alice Puluelo Naipo Park's living room in Hauula and started to dance.

For nearly an hour, adults and children took turns performing for Park. They were her students, and they were showing her all they had learned.

"She was very pleased," said Park's daughter, Soo Whan "Pumehana" Featheran. "It was a nice day. I'm very glad that we were able do that."

Three days later, on Aug. 18, the well-known kumu hula died at home. She had been diagnosed with cancer in May, Featheran said.

Park, who started teaching hula in the early 1950s and graduated seven kumu hula out of her Puamana Hula Studio, was 79.

"Her spirit was very strong," Featheran said. "It was very important to teach with love ... so that that love could carry through to her students."

Park was born in Kohala on the Big Island, and started learning hula as a young child.

She became a kumu hula after several years of study under the renowned hula master Lokalia Montgomery, who was taught by a dancer from King Kalakaua's court.

In 1952, Park opened her hula studio in Palolo. The school has since moved to Kailua, after a stint in Hauula.

Throughout her career, Park tried to not only teach hula, but to make sure her students would preserve it.

She also worked to make it more accessible. In 1998, Park told the Star-Bulletin that some teachers that she had studied under as a young girl were so secretive that they would not allow parents to photograph their children dancing.

She said she hoped to change that with her philosophy: "Don't hide. Give out. That's why you are teachers."

But Park also believed in preserving the form and beauty of hula, and stressed that the title of kumu hula should only be applied to those who have graduated into the position after many years of rigorous study and training.

Over the years, Park's halau has competed in several competitions. Park has also served as a judge in many of those events, including the Merrie Monarch Festival, the Queen Liliuokalani Keiki Hula Competition and the Kona Kupuna Hula Competition.

She was also active in St. Anthony's Church in Kailua, where she served as a Eucharist minister, and was a member the Royal Order of Kamehameha.

Park also took up a post at Kainalu Elementary School as a kupuna.

Besides Featheran, Park is survived by husband Thomas; sons Robert, Russell, Radford and Kaulana; daughters Puamana "Kimmie" and Soonie "Mikiala" Park-Ledbetter; sister Leinaala Naipo-Akamine; and brothers the Rev. George "Kahulanui" and Rodgers Naipo.

Services are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Hawaiian Memorial Park Mortuary, with visitation starting at 4 p.m. Visitation is also set for 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Friday at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Kailua. Mass will be celebrated at 11:30 a.m. Park's ashes will be scattered in a private service.



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