CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Samantha Souisay, front, is among the members of Halau Hula 'O Mai'ana, a Dutch halau practicing for the World International Hula Festival, being held this weekend at the Waikiki Shell.
Holland halau feels at home in Hawaii
In a swirl of orange and yellow, nine hula dancers from Holland chanted about tulips and lehua blossoms and danced as though they'd lived in Hawaii all their lives. Even though it was the first visit for most of them, they said they felt more comfortable here than at home on the other side of the world.
World Invitational Hula Festival
On stage: 4:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday
Place: Waikiki Shell
Admission: $10; $15 select seating; $5 lawn; children under 4 free
And why not? These women, ages 15 to 20, are Dutch, but there's not a blonde hair in sight. Because Indonesia was once a Dutch colony, many Indonesians -- including these families -- migrated to Holland after World War II. They are in Honolulu to perform with dancers from Hawaii, Japan, Guam, Philippines, Spain and Washington State at the 15th-annual World Invitational Hula Festival.
"It really feels like home when I'm here," said 15-year-old Mahlia Joenoes, whose mother is kumu hula of Halau Hula 'O Mai'ana in Holland. "It just feels like everybody's family." Along with her hula sisters, she's sampled kalua pig and poi, sailed on the voyaging canoe Hokualaka'i and danced for Pele at Halemaumau Crater during a visit to the Big Island. "It gave us a special feeling about the culture."
Al Makahinu Barcarse added, "It was very emotional for the kids."
Barcarse, widely known as "Pops," visited Holland in March and April to teach the halau appropriate dances and chants to prepare for the festival. The group rented a house in Niu Valley with an entourage of aunties and grandmas, all of whom adapted immediately to Hawaii's easy cultural mix.
"It's weird for us to live in Holland," said Conchita Joenoes, Mahlia's mother and the group's teacher. "You adapt to the way they live, but it's still different."
Even a visit to Indonesia left her feeling detached, because she was "much more Western," she said. "But over here, we feel connected not only with the people, but with nature and the culture. I don't think I have a drop of Hawaiian blood in me, but I feel like I belong here."
Barcarse obviously agreed; he gave her the title of kumu hula, and the Hawaiian name Kahiau.
Conchita Joenoes, whose previous visit to Hawaii was in 1997, promised to bring her daughter and the halau to Hawaii when they were old enough to perform. So they worked summer jobs, and diligently saved for the trip.
Barcarse's halau, Ka Ua Kilihune, helped sponsor the group, and Barcarse's wife sewed all their outfits with orange -- the royal color of Holland -- and yellow, to represent Oahu. Tulips are incorporated into the design.
But even more significant than the festival, said Barcarse, is the opportunity "for the girls to see and know what they're dancing."