Two Hawaiian instructors, Kalimakuhilani “Kuhi” Southard and Christopher “T.C.” Southard, shared their art and their personal stories with approximately 20 students at Lane’s Longhouse on May 16.
Eugene resident Belle Caracol, who was born and raised in the Philippines, and who dances hula, said she appreciated hearing from the instructors that being Hawaiian is not about a bloodline.
“I really like what they said about being Hawaiian being an attitude,” Caracol said. “Their love for Hawaii is so great, they just want to share it with those who want to share it with them.”
Being Hawaiian is about embodying the culture, T.C. said. It’s about the values, tradition and essence of what it means to be Hawaiian.
“It’s not about blood. It’s about how you act. That’s being Hawaiian,” Kuhi said.
Computer networking instructor Joseph Colton arranged for the instructors to come to Lane as part of the Storytelling Model for Social Justice Program. He said he was very pleased with the event.
“I thought it was really impressive,” Colton said.
There are two types of hula, Kuhi and T.C. said, and both have cultural significance for Hawaii.
Traditional hula requires research and discipline. It’s what preserves the heritage and traditions of Hawaiian culture through dance. The lineage of teachers, to which Kuhi and T.C. belong, are custodians entrusted with keeping the integrity of the dance intact.
A more free-flowing hula, exists within and alongside traditional hula, which allows for individual expression from the dancer. It’s about freedom and creativity in the moment. Both styles of hula work together. The tradition never changes, but the individual stories do, T.C. said.
Kuhi started dancing the hula at 5 years old, and T.C. began his career with hula as a teenager. They are both kumu hula, which literally translates to “teacher of dance.”
T.C. played competitive sports when he was younger, but when he began competing in hula competitions, he learned humility, he said.
“The competition allows you to grow as a group,” T.C. said.
“You learn to pick each other up when you fail. It’s a bonding experience. Even though it’s about you, it’s also about the group.”
While exploring the significance of her role, Kuhi has thought about the future of hula and what it will be like in 20 years. She said her role, and that of any teacher, is to help students navigate their way through life.
“We keep what we were given and keep it as it was meant to be,” Kuhi said.
Regarding making changes to hula, Kuhi said, when you know the history and the tradition, you know what you are changing and why you are changing it, and you have the ability to change it back again.
Kuhi said hula has taught her that she is being guided.
“It’s like watching a movie and being in it at the same time,” she said.
Both Kuhi and T.C. emphasized the importance of blending the masculine and feminine in hula. They each uphold their own lineages and respective female and male characteristics, while honoring and embracing them all.
James Florendo, steward to the Longhouse and Lane Native American Programs coordinator thanked Kuhi and T.C. for the spirit and energy they brought to the longhouse.
“When you add your spirit, people come in here and can feel it,” he said.
In 2008, Kuhi won the title of “Miss Aloha Hula” at the annual weeklong Merrie Monarch Festival, which has been held in Hilo, Hawaii, since 1963. The Merrie Monarch Festival is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Hawaiian culture.