We were so excited to announce Huraiti Mana's participation in Northwest Folklife's newest program Our Big Neighborhood and to be able to participate in their Movin' Around the World segment focused on Polynesia. This week marked the Spring Break for many schools in the nearby area, which meant lots of youth and families were able to come through Seattle Center. There, they could find program after program featuring teaching artists from across disciplines, across cultures, and for some - like Etienne of Gansango whom I met and learned was originally from West Africa - from across the globe.
The morning began with a generous invitation from Q13 Fox News to feature Huraiti Mana in their early morning live broadcast to help share the news of Northwest Folklife's youth event! I had the pleasure of meeting the beautiful, charismatic, energetic, super-real, and quick-witted Ellen Tailor. The Q13 Fox Morning Features Reporter and I talked-story about our heritage, her Greek background and my Native-Hawaiian, about the similarities of laughable language barriers, of appreciating our elders, and of a peoples' resilience.
My day continued with performances and workshops led by Halau 'O Napualani's Kumu Gloria and Bill Nahalea (both of whom also run the non-profit organization Pacific 'Ohana Foundation (POF)). It was so beautiful to see so many keiki (children) perform and help teach hula and Maori poi ball dancing! My hands were twitching the whole time - it's hard for a dancer to watch others and not feel compelled to join!
And following this, I had an absolutely amazing time meeting the bright faces and inquisitive minds of so many youth during Huraiti Mana's 45-minute hula workshop. There is Hawaiian proverb: a'a i ka hula. Dare to dance. And these youth danced unabashedly, learning kāholo, hela, and 'uwehe steps. They listened to my story as I recited "Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai" and danced. After watching intently and listening to nothing but 'ōlelo Hawa'i (Hawaiian language), they repeated to me the story they saw unfold before them; "in the beginning, you were looking at sea-waves," "and you loved it and shared it with everyone," "and the plants of the ocean smelled good." 'Ae. Pololei. They in turn stood to learn and perform this story - and they did so beautifully.
Questions followed after I left the stage and youth gathered around: "when you dance hula, how come you always dance with flowers?" "How come you dance barefoot when you're doing hula?" "Do you always dance hula?" Questions we look forward to addressing each day with Huraiti Mana.
Our sincerest mahalo to Anna and Leta of the Northwest Folklife team for having Huraiti Mana as a part of your innovative program to engage our youth and create empathy across the many cultures that create our big neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest.