Teaching Dance , June17, 2021

I was reminded this week, of teaching Hawaiian dance to young girls at a dance studio in my town. I had been one of the adult hawaiian dancers. The hulas we preformed were modern and songs that many mainlanders were familiar with. I started to research the old Hawaiian stories and chants and choreographing trational hand movements to the chants. I also learned the tales behind these songs. I found that I had a talent for this.

The Hawaiian Teacher left the studio to start her own dance school. I was asked if I would teach Hawaiian to adults and children.

I was a teacher but not of dance. In addition, I had limited vision. Could I keep 7 little girls interested and behaving for an hour?

I devised a set plan for each lesson. First Hawaiian greetings, then stretching to Hawaiian music. Finally the new steps and hand movements for the dance song. I learned to watch in the mirror for movements different from the group. I would go from dancer to dancer feeling each girl’s hip movements and hand positions. to be sure they were correct.

At the end of the class, I told an Hawaiian story and sometimes we made a craft. A piece of candy was the last reward for a good lesson.

I had one little girl in the class that didn’t want to be there. She would try to start a fight to get out of class. My daughter, was easily pulled into a fight with her. I knew that Ruth liked the class and Donna Ray did not. So Ruth was sent to the office and Donna had to stay in the class with no reward at the end.

My daughter would be very angry with me but I told her that fighting was wrong and I had to seperate the two offenders. I reminded Ruth that if she could ignore Donna Ray, there would be no fight.

The girls used props in their dance that I ordered from Hawaii. We used feathered gourds called Uli Ulis, Ipues or gourd drums. flags, santa hats and bamboo rhythm sticks.They loved the props and would be reminded they would keep them at the end of the year.

I also disigned the costumes with parts from Hawaii and some parts from local sources. My husband John, learned to take my ideas and sew each costume .

The recital costumes were real grass skirts from the inner bark of a mulberry tree. The tops were pull up tops in a soft or satin cloth from remnants found at the local Walmart.

The costume was completed with flower leis that the girls strung themselves and a flower clipped in their hair.

I told them the story behind each item. The flower worn on the right signaled that the girl was single, worn on the left, she was engaged or married. One of the little girls asked what if they put the flower on the back of their head? I quickly came up with, “Well, that means that you haven’t decided.”

The first photo shows my daughter dressed to dance and all the other grass skirts in the colors of the rainbow with the flowered leis displayed in a circle.

The second photo show the seven girls in their costumes dancing at a luau.

They are all smiling.



Chorus from “Lord or the Dance”

“Dance, dance, wherever you may be.

I am the Lord of the dance says he.

I will lead you on, wherever you may be.

I will lead you in the dance with me.”

excerpts from the Lord of the Dance, 1997 by

Michael Flatley

carolaspot @aol.com copyright 6-17-2021

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