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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, March 16, 2000

Photo courtesy Patrick Makuakane
Kumu hula Patrick Makuakane, shown with Kahala Bishaw,
returns with his San Francisco halau Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu
to perform 'The Natives are Restless -- Ke Akua.'


Hula looks to the future
with 'The Natives
are Restless'

By Cynthia Oi


NO way does Patrick Makuakane label his dance production as hula. He is well aware of the difference and has too much respect for the Hawaiian dance form to put "The Natives are Restless -- Ke Akua" in the same category.

At the same time, he revels in the artistry, self-expression and the "modern sensibility" he brings to the dance world.

The kumu hula, who was raised in Kaimuki and now lives in San Francisco, and 44 members of his halau, Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu, premiere "Restless" in the islands tomorrow.

Although the performance is based on hula tradition, it isn't traditional hula, said Makuakane. It combines modern music with hula movement, telling the story of the Hawaiian people from the arrival of missionaries to the annexation.

Makuakane has a respected hula lineage, having studied under Robert Cazimero, kumu hula of Halau Na Kamalei.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Kumu hula Patrick Makuakane.


Bullet What: "The Natives are Restless -- Ke Akua"
Bullet When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday
Bullet Where: Hawai'i Theatre
Bullet Cost: $20
Bullet Call: 528-0506

At 38, the part-time personal trainer is muscular and fit and has the exuberance and energy of a man 15 years younger. Even though the wind whipping across the pool deck at the Aston Colony Surf has other hotel guests shivering, he is comfortable in Nike tank top and slate-blue cord shorts.

"Remember, I live in San Francisco," he says, sipping from a huge Starbucks cup. "This is warm to me."

Makuakane calls his dance "hula mua," meaning "hula that's forward, hula for the future."

"It is extremely important to me that I honor the traditions of my ancestors," he explained earnestly. "My students are taught all the traditional things. But there are things that are of my father's generation, like hapa-haole music and the dance that goes with that -- they are beautiful and I love them.

"But those are of a different time.

"My ancestors lived in an insulated environment and were inspired by the world around them. Well, the world around me is different today, and I'm inspired by the new music, new influences, new lifestyle, new fashion," he said.

Oakland kumu hula Mark Keali'i Hoomalu, himself no stranger to criticism for his cutting-edge style of Hawaiian chant, said Makuakane takes hula "to the far side."

Having seen the show, Hoomalu said, "It's not what them damn traditionalists will say is traditional, but as far as theater, it is beautiful."

He, too, refers to it as "hula for the future," and said that as long as Makuakane presents it that way, he'll be all right. Otherwise, "he'll get slammed."

Hoomalu sees value in Makuakane's alterations.

"Hula needs to evolve," he said. "You can take a beautiful hula and lock it away in a Tupperware bowl, an airtight container to keep it intact -- that is not perpetuating the culture. It stagnates our culture."

Makuakane is not out to shake up hula.

"Some people say 'Oh, you just turning the hula upside.' I don't like the hula upside down, I like it right side up. I do this because it's part of my artistic expression."

But he does see a need to break out of the box.

Makuakane remembers that when he was a teen-ager, he was thrilled to listen to such artists as Sunday Manoa (of which Cazimero was a member) and Olomana, who tuned traditional Hawaiian music with a modern sound.

"Before that, I would never listen to Aunty Genoa (Keawe) and older musicians," he said, until he realized it was from the "old ones" that the songs came.

He sees a parallel in hula.

He recalled that during his student days with Cazimero, the kumu hula experimented with the dance.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Kumu hula Patrick Makuakane and his San Francisco
halau perform 'The Natives are Restless -- Ke Akua.'

"He was just pushing the envelope," Makuakane said.

"He made it more accessible and exciting and interesting."

Cazimero, 50, acknowledges that when he was younger, "I used to run around with my hair on fire.

"I was out there, into the avant-garde, creating and putting more emphasis on what I thought was important," he said.

The experimentation, however, eventually drew him back to the tradition taught to him by his kumu, Maiki Aiu Lake.

"To take hula to another level, you have to look to the tradition," Cazimero said.

Hoomalu agrees. Tradition is necessary, he said, but "hula masters far back were slammed, too, for things they changed along the way."

In Makuakane's production, he said, "the motions, the costumes, the themes reflect Hawaii's past, but there's no words, only music, so it is not hula."

Makuakane said he tries "to keep the integrity and respect intact in the dance."

"My halau are trained hula dancers, not jazz dancers, not modern dancers; they don't have ballet background. So all the stuff I do with hula mua has to have movements that are part of hula."

It is the music that adds the unique dimension to hula mua, he said.

"You take two things that are so far apart -- hula and the deep, underground progressive, trance music -- but it works. It matches."

The production is also an education for his mainland audiences.

"The natives are restless because I speak about the downfall of the kapu system and the subsequent conversion of Hawaiians to Christianity," he said.

"People think they're coming to see a rinky-dinky hula show, and they come away educated. This is like half classroom, half theatrical production."

Makuakane's first encounter with hula wasn't a good experience. "It was in 5th grade and I hated it, just hated it."

Later, in a class at St. Louis High School taught by John Keola Lake, "I recognized that hula was the vehicle through which I could explore my Hawaiian-ness. I felt this pride."

Hoomalu said he can see that pride in Makuakane's production.

"It is a wonderful performance. He has a different way of expressing himself, but it's not a bad thing. It's a great thing."

There may be some "who are too rigid to enjoy it," Hoomalu said, but they should remember: "We live in America. We can go and have a good time.

"So just sit back and relax and take it as it is, not for what you believe it's supposed to be."

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