Dancers from Halau O Po’ohala led by Kumu Hula Hulali Solomon Covington grace the stage. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Na Lei Punahele, are riveting as they perform under the direction of Kumu Hula Punahele Andrade. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Na Lei Punahele perform under the direction of Kumu Hula Punahele Andrade. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Dancers with Lanakila Mangauil’s hui, Hula Me Ka Honua, prepare to open the hula show. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Isaac Kahumoku, John Mac Kalauli and Pas Pascual played a full repertoire for the dancers as well as during breaks for the audience. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Kumu Hulali Covington reviews the program with her dancers prior to the show. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Na Lei Punahele performed under the direction of Kumu Hula Punahele Andrade. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Lanakila Mangauil and members of his hula hui open event dramatically with a chant based on the Kumulipo. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Zahtaelia Silva, a young member of halau Helele’i Pua ‘Waipi’o, shows off the hat that she will wear on stage.(PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Resse Arnold, soloist for hula halau Helel’i Pua ‘O Waipi’o, takes the stage to dance a beautiful rendition of the Hamakua favorite, “Hi’ilawe.” (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Keiki from Helele’i Pua ‘Waipi’o charm the audience. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Hamakua Youth Center director, Mahealani Makui, Hamakua Youth Center Board president, Vikki Catalecci, and Kumu Hula Haleakala Sakata, talk story after the show. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
The show closed with a beautiful rendition of “Hawaii Pono’i” during which the audience and dancers joined hands and spirits. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
Hula, like so many other living things, thrives along the Hamakua coast, where budding dancers and those more mature bloomed onstage Saturday to celebrate and raise funds for Hamakua Youth Foundation.
Since 2005, the foundation has overseen the Hamakua Youth Center in Honokaa, the island’s only free, drop-in after school, weekend and summer activity center for children 5-18. The Second Annual Hula Festival was organized by members of their board of directors, coordinated by Board President Vikki Catellacci, with help from HYC students, staff, and extended ohana from the community. The event brought together more than 300 people from the community, with all tickets sold and more purchased that evening.
The event began with drama, as dancers of the cultural hui “Hula Me Ka Honua” filed down the darkened aisle and filled the People’s Theatre with powerful words from the Kumulipo, the Hawaiian creation chant. Led by Lanakila Mangauil, who has coordinated the cultural elements of HYC for eight years, the group includes people of all ages from Hamakua and Puna.
“It is a community hui for anyone who wishes to learn,” said Mangauil. Born and raised in Hamakua, Mangauil attended Honokaa High School and graduated from Kanu O Ka ‘Aina New Century Public Charter School. First as an HYC volunteer, then a staff member and now contractor and teacher at Waiakea School, he teaches hula, Hawaiian farming and plant culture, stories, chants and protocols, training for makahiki games and more.
Mangauil recently returned from a trip to Poland, where he said people were inspired by hula to rediscover their own ancient roots. He brought back two very special lei to share with the audience: one made of leaves from the white oak, sacred in Poland; the other from beads of resin called “blood sap.”
Following with hula to an oli by Keala Ching, Beamer Solomon Halau O Po’ohala performed, featuring their multi-generational dancers from age 5 to 78. Led by Kumu Hula Hulali Solomon Covington, the group had earlier in the day performed at E Mau Ana Ka Hula celebration in Kona; and at last week’s Moku O Keawe Hula Festival, they had winners in every category.
Na Lei Punahele, Kumu Hula Punahele Andrade and Hala Hula Helele i Pua O Waipio, Kumu Hula Haleakala Sakata completed the program with stunning hula in kahiko and auana forms. At one point, the audience was invited to join in “Hi’ilawe,” the iconic song by Gabby Pahinui that honors the region’s famous twin waterfalls. The stage and apron area filled with hula, lovingly performed in different styles of choreography, by dancers in costume, in street clothes and in love with the moment.
One of the dancers was Mahealani Maikui, director of HYC. A dancer since age 7, she has performed with Ray Fonseca’s halau, and went with them to Merrie Monarch when she was an eighth grader. One of seven siblings in the family, she said that her three sisters were more into sports, while her brothers took up hula.
“It’s funny, I wanted to be like my brothers, so I started dancing,” she said. Maikui started with HYC in 2011 as a contractor and a few months later moved into an office coordinator position, then co-director and now what she calls “the head go-to person.”
“I’m carrying the kuleana for the kids, so they can get what they deserve,” she said.
As a place where all children and youth — not just one particular group — can receive help with homework, meals and snacks, activities, the youth center provides a safe environment where students can interact with each other and caring adults.
“They are all our kids,” said Maikui. “Because we are a small town, most kids, their parents and grandparents grew up on the plantation. So, in a way, we are all ‘at risk kids.’ We are all at risk for something.”
“I made leis for the board and helped with the fans,” said Kama Ventura, 12, who worked with the backstage team to put the hula festival together. She and her brothers and sisters are “regulars” at HYC, and she likes the arts and crafts best.
“It’s a lot harder than it looks!” said HYC Board Member Phyllis Tarail, who helped with the fan project, too. “Lanakila’s hui picked and stripped the lauhala for us, but still it takes time to make each one. The fans are being used as makana for the kumu and other entertainers.”
“It’s so natural for them to help,” said Maikui. “It’s hard for them to even think about it as doing something for the Center or something for the community. It’s just part of life.”
“Hawaiian cultural values are part of our mission,” said Tarail’s husband and fellow board member, Joel Cohen. “The Hula Festival is a fundraiser, but it’s more than that. It’s the community coming together … and that’s all coming out of a passion, out of their hearts.”
Cohen said that the first Hula Festival raised about $6,000 last year and they are hoping to top that—through ticket sales, sponsorships and a silent auction.
“Twenty-five per cent of the HYC budget is from fundraisers,” said Cohen.
Located just down the street from the People’s Theatre, HYC is located in what was the “Honokaa Cash & Carry” store, founded by Suekuma Nakashima, great-grandfather of Hawaii State Representative Mark Nakashima, who bought the property in 1939 for a whopping $1,000. Always a place kids loved to come, the store is best remembered for its long and inviting candy counter. Eventually, the Nakashima family transferred the building to the YWCA, who nurtured the original HYC for 13 years, until it became an independent organization.
“I have very much enjoyed working with HYC,” said Theresa Lee, a board member since HYC’s beginning. “We want a place for kids to be able to come and be themselves, have food and get to know each other and adults in loving situation. All the board feels like that.”
“It’s a great thing to have in the community,” said Dave Pettus, Hiilani EcoHouse resident and former director of the Hamakua Music Festival. “There’s nothing like it on the island. Every community should have one.”
“I’m grateful that the HYC has been a persistent and steady presence for youth in Honokaa who don’t do sports or have the support of hula, jazz band, robotics or whatever it is. They have caring, mentoring adults to help them learn good study habits and how to act interpersonally with each other. And the staff are truly beautiful, truthful people.”
“It’s a fundraiser but really a community celebration,” said Board President Vikki Catellacci, who appeared in the show and has been dancing with Hula Me Ke Honua for about four years. “We had thought about having a competition last year, but it just didn’t feel right. This is more of a hoike or exhibition, a celebration of Hawaiian culture through dance. It is our one big fundraiser for the year now.”
“We have wonderful sponsors,” said Catellacci, acknowledging Hawaii Comomunity Federal Credit Union, Stacy Disney, Barbara Franklin, Joel Cohen and Phyllis Tarail, Jack Zimmerman and Jacquelyn McCandless, and the “Ahualoa Aunties,” Sara McCay, Moyce Reed, Grethe Jaeckie, Mare Grace, January Herron and herself, who made cash contributions to the production.
“The community has been amazing,” she said.
Catellacci has been a licensed marriage and family therapist in Waimea for more than 30 years, in addition to dancing and spearheading HYC fundraisers. She is more than pleased with the youth center’s progress over the years, and happy to welcome new board members, Chalinthorn Burian and Chelsea Yagong.
“Mahealani has done an amazing job this year,” said Catellacci. “It has been a big turn-around time for us—financially, program-wise, energy-wise—there are a lot of positive things happening.”
“This is incredible. It’s like Hamakua’s ‘mini Merrie Monarch,’” said Phaeton Keeney, who runs the People’s Theatre with her father Dr. Tawn Keeney. “It’s great seeing the entire coastline come and welcome the talent here—and nothing brings people out like the Hamakua Youth Foundation … They rock it.”
To be part of the positive vibe at Hamakua Youth Center, to participate in the next Hula Festival, or to donate time or resources, visit www.hamakuayouthcenter.wordpress.com, or call 775-0976.