Joyce Theater


American Dance Platform 2018

ADP CURATOR: Christine Tschida

Work Performed: Hi'iakaikapoliopele

About the Company

Company Website

“Hula is a reflection of life. Hula is a way of telling history.”  – Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele

Hālau o Kekuhi is the hālau hula (classical dance company) and the center of cultural knowledge for Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation, which represents the lineage of one of the founders of the 1970s Hawaiian Renaissance that brought Hawaiian culture back into the active life of the Islands.. The cultural beliefs and practices in which the Foundation is anchored radiates from the traditional practices of the hālau that can account for eight generations of kumu hula. Hālau o Kekuhi is celebrated for its mastery of the ʻaihaʻa style of hula (dance) and oli (chant). The ʻaihaʻa is a low-postured, vigorous, bombastic style of hula that springs from the eruptive volcano personae Pele and Hiʻiaka, characteristic of Hawai‘i Islandʻs creative forces.

The leadership of the dance company is transmitted from matrilineal succession and with the passing of Edith Kanakaʻole, her daughters Pualani Kanakaʻole Kanahele and Nālani Kanakaʻole, both National Heritage Fellows, assumed the role of Kumu Hula.  In 2007, Pualani relinquished her position to her daughters, Kekuhi Kealiikanakaʻoleohaililani and Huihui Kanahele-Mossman. The hālau is now under the direction of Nālani and Huihui.

The Hālauʻs current performances are reflective of the natural phenomenon of the volcano since this has been an active occurrence on the island for over a decade. Hālau o Kekuhi has earned local, state, national, and international recognition for their art.


This video clip is a sample of the company’s style, and includes, from PBS Dance in America, a brief description of how the groups’ overview of their hula practice. The performance video was filmed at the renowned Merrie Monarch Festival in 2017, the premier hula competition and dance gathering in the world. Halau O Kekuhi traditionally opens the Festival each year. The video shows segments of the performance as well as rehearsal.

Though it is a sampler, please note the escalating dynamic of the chant from the beginning to the end of the work. The voice is as much an element in hula as the movement, since both make change in our environment, altering vibrations as well as connecting to the earth. Implements are used during certain segments: ‘uli ‘uli (gourd), ‘ili (river rocks “castanets”), and long sticks or kala‘au.

“Hula is a choreographed interpretation of a poetic text. At the heart of a hula performance is the poetic text called mele [chant or song]; without a poetic text, there is no basis for the choreographed movement interpretation. The mele deftly weaves together metaphors of places and allusions to gods and people, using images of nature. A mele, then, is a poetic text rich with kaona—multiple layers of meanings that make even ancient texts as relevant today as when they were written.” —reference: Dr. Amy Ku'uleialoha Stillman, University of Michigan

For more information, contact: Karen Fischer, Pasifika Artists Network, 808-283-7007,,

Funding Credits

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The Joyce Theater's American Dance Platform is dedicated to the memory of Theodore S. Bartwink of The Harkness Foundation for Dance.  Theodore S. Bartwink was a Joyce Theater Foundation Trustee from 1993 to 2014.

Major support for The Joyce’s presentation of the American Dance Platform has been provided by The Harkness Foundation for Dance.