Most Viewed Stories
Aloha to Yuma: Hawaiian native to teach hula dancing workshop
The four-day workshop will be held Aug. 23-26 at Best Western Inn Suites, Palm Canyon Room, 1450 Castle Dome Ave. It is open to men, women and children of all ages.
On Thursday and Friday, the workshop will take place from 6-8:30 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; and Sunday from 12-6:00 p.m.
The cost for all four days is $125. Registration and payment deadline is Aug. 18.
For more information, contact Cookie Pearson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (928) 919-0387.
A person's innermost thoughts and feelings can be expressed through traditional Hawaiian hula dance. Each movement tells part of the person's story.
The hands tell the story, according to Cathy AhYo, who grew up in Hawaii. “The hands will tell you whether you're singing about the waves, or the wind, or the birds.”
“When you dance hula, you have to know the meaning of the words,” native Hawaiian Cookie Pearson said.
There are two kinds of hula dancing. In the ancient dance, called “kahiko,” dancers moved to the words of chanters.
“They had no written language. This was their way of telling a story,” AhYo explained.
The modern version, known as “auana,” dancers move to the sounds of the guitar, ukulele, drums or songs.
“This is what most people think of when they think of hula dancing,” AhYo noted.
Both women are members of the nonprofit organization Hui `O Hawai`i of Yuma, which is inviting Yumans to immerse themselves in the Hawaiian oral tradition, language and culture associated with the hula dance during a four-day workshop.
The hula and Tahitian dance workshop for beginners to experienced dancers will be held Aug. 23-26 at the Best Western Inn Suites, Palm Canyon Room, 1450 Castle Dome Ave. Those interested in participating must act quickly as the registration deadline is Saturday.
“We are fortunate enough to be able to have a hula instructor (known as “kumu hula”) from Hawaii come in to do this special workshop,” club president Pearson said.
This is a rare opportunity, according to Pearson. “I have lived in Yuma for 22 years and I believe this is a first for Yuma.”
“Kumu hula” (instructor) Tarita Tehotu, a native Hawaiian, is an expert in hula and Taihitian dancing.
Although the workshop is open to beginners, the group hopes Tehotu's instruction will enhance what local hula students have already learned. The “hui” (club) has been holding weekly hula classes in an effort to share a piece of Hawaiian and keep the tradition alive.
The club was formed in 2006 by a group of Hawaiians living in Yuma. “The goals from the outset have been to promote the Hawaiian culture with meetings, social events and luaus, and to spread and share the Hawaiian ‘spirit of aloha' with our neighbors, friends and families,” states the club's website, www.huiohawaiiofyuma.org.
The club is open for anyone who find themselves living away from home and who loves or is interested in Hawaii, its culture and people.
AhYo, a club member who came to Yuma in 2005 with her late husband Gerry to be closer to their daughter, has been hula dancing since she was 5 years old. She was part of a performing group in her youth.
She speaks fluent Hawaiian and chants during hula performances, handmade “ipu heke” (gourd drum) in her hand.
“In Hawaii you just pick it up because a lot of families dance,” AhYo said.
Pearson, who arrived in Yuma as a military wife, also grew up with hula dancing.
“It's a family thing. We dance it at luaus, at parties. My two sisters had formal training and taught the rest of us,” she said.
Like most Hawaiians who live away from home, she misses her native land. But the tropical island state is reflected throughout her house, with touches of Hawaii -- from hula art and leis to palm trees and tropical flowers -- dominating the decor.
Hula dancing is another way of connecting to their home. “We miss home and it brings us closer to home,” Pearson said.
AhYo also enjoys the music. “It's very soothing, it's very melodic. It's just home, more than anything it's home.”
The dance outfits are also very reminiscent of Hawaiian traditional wear. The older women wear colorful, flowery dresses and pa'u skirts. The younger girls wear grass skirts. They all pin flowers to their hair, on the left if they're spoken for, on the right if they're available.
The dancers practice once a week and perform at social and fund-raising events. Hula classes are held at the Yuma Main Library for beginner, intermediate and experienced dancers as well as for those 50-plus.
Classes are open to club members only, but anybody can join the club. It currently has about 50 members.
“If they join, we just ask they give us their sweat,” Pearson said.
Club members focus on community service and participate in several fund-raisers, such as Relay for Life, and other events, including Children's Art Festival.
The group also works with the AWC Polynesian Club and is currently sponsoring seven Arizona Western College football players from Hawaii.
“We held a potluck for seven of those very hungry boys. They're huge and they can eat. They miss their own local food, but they have their aunties who will cook for them,” Pearson said.
AhYo noted that, according to Hawaiian tradition, calling an older person “auntie” and “uncle” is a sign of respect, whether they're related or not.
The organization holds a yearly luau - complete with roasted pig and traditional entertainment - every February, with the proceeds going towards scholarships for Yuma students. This year the group awarded five college scholarships and one scholarship for a German language camp.
Next year's luau will be held Feb. 23 at the Civic Center.
Also coming next year: ukulele classes. If someone has a hankering for learning to play the instrument, join the club. Club memberships are $30 per family, $20 per person and for snowbirds, and $10 for military E6 and above.
Mara Knaub can be reached at email@example.com or (928) 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.