Hula is Life with Kumu Hula Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu

Updated: Apr. 18, 2020 at 8:20 PM HST
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McKenna Maduli flies to Oakland, CA to pay a visit to her Kumu Hula Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu. A legend in his own right, Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu greets McKenna with a big hug, then playfully tells her she’s cut and closes the door. When she tells him that she is here to Talk Story, he lets her in, but keeps her on her toes by immediately seeing what she remembers. It all comes back to McKenna as they begin to hula. McKenna recalls when Mark moved her from the Merrie Monarch point to the back center because she rolled her eyes at him. Their connection is palpable and evokes a smile as they reminisce together.

Mark shares his story of how hula came into his life, some of his inspirations, and what lies behind the shades. McKenna loves his “shock and awe” factor. Although he can be brash, the proof is in the poi. McKenna remembers when she was a student, “At that point in my life, I didn’t realize as a Kumu what you were trying to get out of us as dancers. You have a vision and you see us as your vessels of going out there and dancing your creations and these important mele.” Kumu Mark refers to hula students as Kalo and through intense training and disciple, the Kumu Hula smashes them into poi.

Mark introduces us to Sally, his beloved ipu. “She’s an integral part of Academy.” McKenna asks him when he closes his eyes, and is just with Sally, who does he connect with most? “I can not say. It’s just an empty space. When I’m singing and Sally’s on, and we’re on that rhythm, I don’t care about the dance, I don’t care about anything. I just listen to the sound of it all, and you know hula is beautiful because it is a visual, but the sound, when the sound comes across… If you close your eyes and the sound can create a dancer in your mind, that’s hula, and you’ve done your job.” Mark encourages us all as individuals to use our own voice, and not imitate anyone else. “Do your best and do your own.”

About Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu: Kumu Hula Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu teaches the essence of Hawaiian history and customs through choreography of hula and mele (chants in the Hawaiian language). He founded the Academy of Hawaiian Arts in 2003, and his fresh approach to hula has made the group’s name famous in the Hawaiian arts and dance community. As a designer of ipu heke, pahu drums, ‘uli’uli and lei hulu, along with his chanting, music, and choreography, Kumu Hula Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu has established himself as a visionary artist with immeasurable passion for hula and Hawaiiana. Kumu Mark is the visionary behind the theatrical production, Kingdom Denied, and a new form of audience-judged hula competition, Ka Hula Hou, among other original works. His work has been featured in the Walt Disney movie Lilo and Stitch, the PBS documentary American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawai’i, and on several original CDs including Call It What You Like, Po’okela Chants, and TraditionaLimits.

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