This poem was one of the earliest signs that I had decided to live after my husband Fred died. It came a couple of years after his death in 1997.
The poem was inspired by a picture done by photographer Randy Jay Braun, a friend who made a career of making remarkable portraits of hula dancers, particularly those who lived on Maui. I have a poster of it still hanging in my bedroom.
(The dancer in the photograph above is Haunani Pascua from Maui’s Halau Hula o ka Makani Wili Makaha o Kaua’ula. Her teachers are kumu hula Keali’i Reichel and Uluwehi Guerrero.)
For me, hula is a metaphor for a particularly Hawaiian way of moving – with grace and beautiful intent, with meaning and mana in every movement.
The dancer at the edge of the water
Plays with the waves,
Following their movements
That wash across the sand.
In the glistening wet patterns,
Mirrors in the early morning light,
They reflect back the dancer
And her rhythmic movements
As she dips and bends and beckons
With her hands, her hips, her feet,
That recall the ancient patterns
As she dances for the old ones
And the ones who come after.
Her face is serene
And on her lips there is a smile
Of quiet joy and gentle remembering
And her movements flow like the waves
Of the moana that surrounds us,
That embraces and enfolds us,
And our gentle island home,
As she greets the day that is dawning,
As she celebrates the turning of the tide
On the sands of her birthplace
In the land that is her cradle,
She is dancing to her heartsong
And she flows like a wave
From another time.
The wet sands reflects the dancer in her glory;
The joy of her kupuna, she,
Her ancestors’ pride….
[created 27 April 1999]
by Netta Kanoho
Here’s a beautiful YouTube video by the Great Big Story video network about the dance’s most prestigious competition, the annual Merrie Monarch Festival held on the Big Island. The 2016 Miss Aloha Hula was Kayli Ka’iulani Carr. As you can see from the video, she exemplifies the spirit of the dance….
Picture credit: Hula — The Language of the Heart by Randy Jay Braun © 1993 [with permission from owner]
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