There is a lot more to hula dancing than grass skirts and swaying bodies, according to master hula instructor Michael Casupang, of Honolulu’s Mid-Pacific Institute School of the Arts, visiting Laguna this week with 23 of his advanced students.
They will demonstrate just that, first at the Artists Theatre at Laguna Beach High School at 7 p.m. tonight, Feb. 18, and then at the Susi Q Center at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22.
Casupang and students from his hula school, Pupukahi I Ke Alo O Na Pua (“United as One in the Presence of the Flowers”) want to share the deeper meaning of hula, which includes its history and evolution reflecting changes in society. “We love to entertain in our performances, but there is a historical side that we love to share also,” he said.
The hula performances come courtesy of Casupang’s connection with Lisa Jay, the LBHS dance instructor and former Mid-Pacific instructor. The two former colleagues have choreographed a dance that combines hula with contemporary dance. This week students had the opportunity to rehearse together for the first time, and they will perform their collaboration at the Artists Theatre.
Casupang held four workshops this past Thursday and today for 141 students in Jay’s dance classes, giving them a chance to learn about hula, its history, social significance and costuming along with basic hula steps.
Hula is distinct from other dance forms because the poetic text accompaniment is actually the most important part of the performance. “Without the poetic text or words in a song, there is no hula,” Casupang stated emphatically, adding that even though the gestures interpret the text, “in the end it is more important to know the words…the hula cannot exist without the words.”
The trip’s theme, “Face to Face,” is about the value of the human connection and communication where hula serves as the invaluable lesson, Casupang said. “To work hard, be persistent, kind, caring about others, and working toward a sense of harmony . . . the dance is beautiful when harmony is achieved among all dancers on stage and between the dancers and me, the chanter,” he said.
Guests are asked to make a $5 donation for the performance tonight. Students perform a free concert at the Susi Q Center next week.
To see images of the hula dancers, visit http://www.midpac.edu/mpsa/gallery/hula/main.php.