KAMALEI SATARAKA / 1947-2005
PHOTO COURTESY OF DENISE SATARAKA
Kamalei Sataraka, who died Thursday at the Queen's Medical Center, performs at a 1999 festival in Japan. The kumu hula co-founded Hula Hui O Kamalei in 1976.
Kumu hula wasn't afraid to be different
At 3 years old, Kamalei Sataraka decided she wanted to become a hula teacher.
By 11, she was teaching hula to friends and neighborhood kids in her home. And before she hit 30, in 1976, she opened Hula Hui O Kamalei with friend and "hanai sister" Gloria Snyder.
"Kamalei has put a dent on everyone who has passed her path," said Snyder, who met Sataraka in 1971 after teaching her karate in a women's self-defense class. "She was rather strict. If you stayed with her, you had to be rather tough. But Kamalei just loved to dance."
Sataraka died Thursday at the Queen's Medical Center after suffering a stroke at her hula studio nine days earlier.* She was 58.
She was known for her comic, flamboyant style and her hula halau won many awards over its 29-year history.
Dancers with Hula Hui O Kamalei have performed in several countries over the years under Sataraka's tutelage, including Japan and Canada.
STAR-BULLETIN / 1997
Kamalei Sataraka plays ukulele while Etsuko Watanabe dances at Sataraka's studio in 1997.
The kumu hula and her students have also garnered a slew of first-place awards at the King Kamehameha Hula Competition. Her "comic hula," with its garish costumes and witty lyrics, was especially popular.
"People always say I'm different," she told the Star-Bulletin in 1997. "I love that, 'cause you know what? I'm making an impact, whether it's good or bad. Have fun while you're doing it, because that's my thing. Don't go out there and dance -- get out there and DANCE!"
Snyder said Sataraka's students are devastated by her loss.
At a Christmas performance at Ward Warehouse, which is a holiday tradition for the halau, dancers will place a chair in the audience with a photo of Sataraka encircled with a lei.
The hula school will celebrate its 30th anniversary in August.
"When she taught the hula, she just taught with love -- love in her heart with the art," Snyder said. "We're going to continue her teaching and her wishes. She will live in our hearts forever."
Services for Sataraka are set for Dec. 11 and 12 at Mililani Downtown Mortuary. Viewing Dec. 11 will start at 5 p.m., followed by services from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Viewing Dec. 12 will start at 8 a.m., followed by services until noon. Burial will follow the Dec. 12 services.
Sataraka is survived by son Blair; two grandchildren; sisters Alice Erickson, Jan Kalama and Lenore Miller-Aki; and brothers Albert and Charles Miller.
Tuesday, December 6, 2005
» Kumu hula Kamalei Sataraka died Thursday, nine days after suffering a stroke. A story on Page A22 Sunday incorrectly said she died two days after the stroke.