Kingston, New Hampshire, USA
by Lovena Harwood
What’s the first thing you think of when you think of Hawaii? For some folks, its tikis, hula girl dashboard dolls and pineapples. But there is more to Hawaii than souvenirs. The heritages of the many diverse communities throughout Hawaii enrich the lives of Hawaii citizens. It is this diverseness that helps attract and keep Hawaiian culture alive, even throughout the world.
Finding Hawaiiana outside of Hawaii has always been a challenge but with more Hawaii-born citizens moving away from Hawaii, keeping in touch with one another and sharing their love for the Hawaiian culture has been made easy thanks to the Internet. Local Hawaiian and island flavor recipes are easily exchanged and coming together for kanikapila, pa’inas and luaus are just a couple clicks away.
One of the most important culture aspects of Hawaii is Hula. Teaching and sharing the art of Hula away from Hawaii is both unique and challenging. But with workshops and seminars held both in Hawaii and on the mainland, students and Kumu not only learn about the Hula, but also learn to perpetuate the traditional culture of the Hawaiian people.
This months' feature is Nancy Griffin of Paradise In The Palms Dance Studio in Kingston, NH. I met Griffin over 5 years ago on an online Hawaii community. Since we were closely located to one another we met for kaukau and have been doing so ever since.
Griffin has been dancing the hula off and on for 25 years. Kumus and halaus were a rarity in rural New Hampshire at that time but Griffin got into hula with early lessons. According to Griffin, “Since I have no clear hula lineage, I would have to say Aunty Maiki Lake style for Auana, as most of the Kumus whose workshops I attend can trace back to her. As for Kahiko, I have learned and taught a few very old Aiha`a style.
Griffin holds hula workshops in her studio. Her studio is located in her home and the dedicated dance space has seen many students in the 6 years she has held workshops. Adults make up the classes at Paradise In The Palms, but Griffin’s little granddaughter will be starting lessons as soon as she starts walking. She already sways from side to side to their music!
Attending Hula workshops and seminars are important to preserving Hula. Workshops that Griffin has attended include several taught by her beloved first "official" teachers, Lisati Mangali, (who has passed on), A. Lino Senio, K. Leimomi Hoover, and Allen Kam. She has also traveled to New York and Illinois to learn from Uncle George Na`ope, O`Brian Eselu, Chinky Mahoe and Leialoha Lim Amina.
Last month Griffin attended a workshop with Kumu Kawika Alfiche and his Halau 'o Keikiali'i, who visited Springstep.org in Medford, MA. Most of the members of Griffin's Halau, Hui Lehua, attended the intensive workshop with her. Their Hui split up so that a few of them could learn each of two hulas that were taught. "This way, our group has twice as much material to study, as we kokua with each others' learning," Griffin says with anticipation. "It will be a great winter project for us." The Hui will not perform the hulas they learned until Kumu Alfiche reviews a video of them dancing the hulas in their studio, makes corrections and approves a final version of their work. "We want to preserve the integrity of these dances out of respect for the Kumu, his style, and hula itself," affirms Griffin.
This month Griffin will have the opportunity to travel to Hawaii and attend the Moku O Keawe International Festival on the Big Island as well as the International Waikiki Hula Conference on Oahu. She’ll learn more about teaching and hula protocol so there will be more structure to the content of her classes. “My students are looking forward to it”, says Griffin. “So nice to hula inside when the snow is falling outside. It kind of gives us a perpetual summer mindset!”
When Griffin isn’t teaching or attending workshops, she is organizing Pa’inas and Luaus. The annual Christmas Pa’ina with members of the Hui Anuenue (New England Hawaiian Club) is held at Griffin’s hale. And she also organizes a luau at the local American Legion to benefit the Bobby Benson Center of Kahuku, Hawaii.
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If you know of a Halau or Hawaiian organization/club/business/association that you would like to see featured at Hawaiian Culture Throughout the World, please contact me at: eastcoasthawaiiangirlatgmaildotcom.