Hula community looks ahead after the passing of leaders - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hula community looks ahead after the passing of leaders

Uncle Rae Fonseca, left, and Auntie Dottie Thompson, right Uncle Rae Fonseca, left, and Auntie Dottie Thompson, right
Carl Veto Baker Carl Veto Baker
Punawai Jinbo Punawai Jinbo
Lilinoe Lindsey Lilinoe Lindsey
Karen Keawehawaii Karen Keawehawaii

By Duane Shimogawa bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's hula community continues to mourn the passing of two of their most respected and influential leaders.

Uncle Rae Fonseca and Auntie Dottie Thompson died within 24 hours of one another. Uncle Rae died suddenly Saturday. He collapsed after he finished a hula performance at Ko Olina.

The 56-year-old established the award-winning Halau, Hula 'O Kahiki Laulani in Hilo. Auntie Dottie passed away of pneumonia on Friday in Hilo.

The 88-year-old was the co-founder and director of the Merrie Monarch Festival. With these two icons of hula passing away, including Uncle George months ago, it paves the way for the younger generation to keep the ancient dance moving along.

Kumu Hula Carl Veto Baker passes on his knowledge of hula to students of his halau. These preparations are extra special. It's the final touches to a run for the top prize at this year's Merrie Monarch competition.

One that may rely more heavily on future participants of this ancient art.

"I think the best thing as teachers that we can do is to make sure that we get the next generation to make sure that they're gonna take over the reins," Kumu Hula Veto Baker said.

One of his students, Punawai Jinbo is also a teacher. So his roles are equally important.

"By my kumu teaching me and I teaching the kids what my kumu are teaching, we're keeping our genealogy strong and passing on the traditions of our ancestors," Jinbo said.

The passing of Uncle George in October, as well as Auntie Dottie and Uncle Rae in the past few days are glimmering reminders of the need for new leaders of hula.

"We have to work even harder to preserve what we've learned from over the years and to pass that on to our haumana," Kumu Hula Lilinoe Lindsey said.

Veto Baker feels hula will continue to dance on if each and every kumu uses their own style, but uses concepts from their teachers as well.

"Like it is happening today, our kumu, he did his own thing, he taught us the traditions and now we put our own thing to it," he said.

And without those traditions from icons like Auntie Dottie, important events like the Merrie Monarch may not be here today.

"Where would we have been had it not be for Auntie Dottie, she was truly a gift, one that you cannot replace," Hawaiian entertainer Karen Keawehawaii said.

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