Halau I Ka Wekiu turns 10
Led by the latest kumu in a storied bloodline, the group takes the stage in a fundraiser to support an ambitious East Coast performance trip
"Hula is the art of Hawaiian dance, the experience of all we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and feel."
Halau I Ka Wekiu presents 'The Tender Years'
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Time: 5 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $25 and $35, available at the Blaisdell Center box office, all Ticketmaster outlets including Times Supermarkets, charge-by-phone at (877) 750-4400 and online at ticketmaster.com
The words of the late Aunty Maiki Aiu Lake are printed on the back of a T-shirt worn by a dancer who, with her hula brothers and sisters, was rehearsing on a recent Sunday afternoon in the Papakolea studio and home of her "kumz" Michael Casupang and Karl Veto Baker of Halau I Ka Wekiu.
The two kumu hula and their halau are preparing for a special 10th anniversary concert at Blaisdell Concert Hall on Sunday. As always, Casupang and Baker stay cognizant of their hula lineage, starting with Aunty Maiki, who was kumu to Robert Cazimero; he, in turn, was kumu to the two men when they were part of his Halau Na Kamalei.
The full-length mirrors along one wall are covered up by taped sheets of paper. No longer can the dancers take their cues by looking at their images. Now they dance as if they're on stage Sunday.
It's not a perfect run-through. Casupang and Baker tell their core group of dancers to focus, work on their timing, to start mentally preparing themselves for the stage.
From behind his piano, Casupang reminds the dancers of "control, control," and to "smile, ladies!"
"I want the whole concert to ring and be magnificent," Baker said.
While in previous years the halau has staged fundraising concerts for its nonprofit Kauakoko Foundation, dedicated to assisting students and financing trips to the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, this special anniversary concert benefits something even bigger: a performance tour of the East Coast next month, with stops in Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and New York.
Because of this year's special plans, Halau I Ka Wekiu bypassed the Merrie Monarch after its kane swept the hula kahiko and auana competitions last year, garnering enough total points to become the festival's overall winner in 2007. (Na Pua Onaona, the halau's wahine, will compete next year.)
During the day's rehearsal, supportive applause occasionally breaks out, especially when the keiki and the older women of Na Lei Hiwahiwa dance.
SUNDAY'S CONCERT, featuring all 100 members of the halau (including Casupang and Baker in rare dancing roles), will tell of the journey of Halau I Ka Wekiu.
Singer Natalie 'A'i will be a special guest, along with Robert Cazimero. Cazimero, Casupang, Baker and former hula brothers Manu Boyd and Moses Crabbe will honor the memory of Helen Desha Beamer in mele.
"The concert's opening will be a video introduction of the halau's family, both personal and hula, and we'll dance to 'Kaimuki Hula,' which was the first winning song for Halau Na Kamalei; 'Popohe,' which Michael and I wrote for our kumu Robert; and then 'Pua Lililehua,' a song honoring Aunty Maiki," Baker said.
After several hula kahiko, the first half of the concert will end with a bloopers section, "a fun thing that shows we can make fun of ourselves."
A trilogy section that begins the second half comprises basic pahu dances that are part of the usual hula repertoire. Next is a section that will be especially moving, a memory of Queen Liliuokalani and her resting place, Uluhaimalama, which is just down the hill from the halau's headquarters.
The finale looks to the future and includes songs from Casupang and Baker's latest CD, "Listen to Your Heart," copies of which will be sold in the concert hall lobby to help raise funds, along with the sale of items from a silent auction.
THE HALAU, which per-formed in Japan in March, will be participating in the nation's longest-running dance festival when it travels to the East Coast.
Thanks to a video submission, "we were invited to go to the Jacob's Pillow dance festival in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts," Baker said. "It's an honor for us to get into the festival because it's noted for inviting only the very best dance groups from the world over. To take hula to that kind of stage is incredible."
After the festival, their are plans to do more dates in Massachusetts, workshops in D.C. and Virginia for expatriate Hawaiian groups and then a visit to Wolf Trap to meet a Hawaiian contingent that includes Halau O Kekuhi, the Brothers Cazimero and Ledward Ka'apana. Finally, the halau will be in New York to perform and do workshops at the National Museum of the American Indian.
"And most of us are planning to go see Loretta Ables Sayre in 'South Pacific,'" Baker adds. "She's done a show with us in the past, and she was able to coordinate our getting tickets to see her in the show."