We Got Your Hawaii Right Here

While hopping a flight to Honolulu may be a pipe dream this year, hula doesn’t have to be. Bay Area performance troupe Hālau ’o Keikiali’i delivers a more authentic Hawaiian experience than most of the entertainment you’re likely to find on the islands, anyway. The group’s members, who range in age from 5 to 75, are devotees of hula kahiko, or “ancient hula,” as practiced before western contact with the archipelago. More than a dance form, the highly elaborate and exquisitely preserved practice incorporates chant (oli), traditional story-songs (mele), and exacting costumes (lole hula) to make today’s tourist luaus look like dashboard paraphernalia. The group even cultivates native Hawaiian plants on its own plot of land in South San Francisco for use in making its own clothing and lei.

Part anthropologist, part historian, and all artist, director Kāwika Keikiali'ihiwahiwa Alfiche, for whom the hālau (or school) is named, can trace his hula lineage back to some of the biggest names in the form’s preservation. And his is likely next on the list, if the students he’s spent the last 15 years scrupulously teaching the Hawaiian language and culture have any say. Tonight’s program spotlights the role of the goddess Hi’Iaka, who heals disease. Maybe she can put in a good word to the goddess who lowers plane fares.
Sat., Feb. 7, 8 p.m., 2009

 
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