CARMEN ON HULA
Carmen U`ilani Haugen
Carmen U`ilani Haugen
is best known perhaps as a solo hula dancer and she prefers to call herself
a "mea hula," or dancer, instead of "kumu hula," for dance
She DOES teach hula, classes for adult women who want to learn how to dance `auana, and to have fun dancing. "In my classes, there is no mention of competing," Carmen says. "I don't believe in it. I think dancing should be for fun. My students leave each class happy, laughing, and thrilled that they have learned to dance songs that they will be able to perform at parties, at home, or in clubs."
Although Carmen does not teach chanting or hula kahiko, she encourages her students to at least learn about it, since it is the beginnings of all hula.
Carmen, who is Hawaiian-Chinese-Filipino-Spanish, was born on Maui and is a part of the `Ohana Kauaua, believed to be the largest family in the Islands with some 5,000 identified family members. Among her famous "musical" cousins are the late Uncle Jimmy Kaholokula, composer of such popular songs as "Pua `Olena" and such noted kumu hula as Hokulani De Rego, Kaha`i Topolinski and `Olana Ai. She is married to composer Keith Haugen, who has written dozens of Hawaiian songs, including such hula numbers as "`O Ka Wehi `O Kawehi," "E Hula Mai `Oe," "Ke Ali`i Wahine Aloha" and others.
Unlike many kumu hula, who started dancing as children, Carmen started as an adult. She studied under Kumu Hula Hu`i Park and has performed professionally for the past 25 years, primarily as one half of the duo, Keith & Carmen. In that role, she has traveled and performed in Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Guam, Christmas Island, and at many Mainland cities--Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Miami, Dallas, Minneapolis, Vancouver, and more. The 58-year-old grandmother of nine has danced in many of the major hotels on all the Islands in Hawai`i. She has been a featured solo dancer with such well-known groups as The Sons of Hawai`i and Na Kaholokula, and is one of the most photographed hula dancers in Hawai`i, pictured in national and international publications in Japan, Sweden, Australia. Sweden's equivalent to America's Parade Magazine did a feature on hula, pictured Carmen and headlined the article INGEN DANSAR HULA SOM CARMEN (No one dances hula like Carmen). She has been featured in television performances in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Australia, and the USA, and has starred in pre- and half-time shows of the Jeep Eagle Aloha Bowl and the Kodak Hula Bowl. In 1977, she was chosen to dance for Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand, a command performance in the Royal Palace in Bangkok. Her hula was filmed for use by the Ballet Mistress of the Royal Thai Ballet.
Critics and reviewers have described Carmen as having ". . . the loveliest of hula hands," and as "the premier solo hula dancer in Hawai`i." She is often likened to the late great `Iolani Luahine. Her dancing is said to be "simple and unpretentious" like that of Aunty `Io and other greats.
Carmen has taught hula workshops for the Foundation for Pacific Dance in Waikiki, as well as in Tokyo, and even on the Royal Viking luxury liners.
Keith & Carmen currently appear at the prestigious Royal Hawaiian Hotel, where they have been a resident act for more than 13 years. Theirs is one of the few remaining all-Hawaiian shows anywhere. They have been regulars in Waikiki for more than 25 years in some of the most prestigious venues. Their latest Hawaiian recording, "`Ukulele Lady" was released in 1995.
"There's a big difference between dancing solo and the line dancing taught in most halau hula today," says Carmen. "To begin with, the very nature of Polynesians is to reject mechanization. It is not very Hawaiian to always do something the same way. Yet, that is something that has become very necessary in the performance of hula by large numbers of dancers, who, for the sake of the competition, are expected to be precise, perfect and perform in an exact sameness as the dancers on either side.
"In that regard, solo dancing is perhaps more Hawaiian. It permits more expression, more self-expression. It allows you to project your own personality. You may not dance a song the same way twice. And that is OK. In fact, it is natural. When you dance a song for someone special, you may do it with more feeling, more emotion, than when you dance it for a larger audience."
"That makes solo hula more fun, more of a challenge, she says. You don't have to do it like everyone else does it. You can do it as you feel it. It should be fun. That's what hula is all about.
"Language and text meaning are most important to Hawaiian music. In the old days, it was totally important, and the melody of a song had almost no importance at all. The meter was important only because it helped the chanters of old to memorize the long chants. You must remember there was no written language in those days.
"Today, the music and meter, the beat, are the most important things for many, since so few people understand the language. It is a sad fact, that people sing songs without checking to see what the songs mean or even if the lyrics are correct. And, sadly, some kumu hula teach them without checking with the composer, publisher or a language authority.
"My advice is simple: don't sing, dance or teach a song until you know the lyrics are correct and until you know the meaning of the lyrics--both the literal meaning and the "kaona" or hidden meaning--if there is one. Even if you speak Hawaiian, take the time to seek out the composer, if living; or a family member if the composer is dead; or the publisher; or at the very minimum a language expert who can tell you what it means. I can't stress this too strongly as it looks so bad for those who understand, to watch a dancer whose motions don't match the meaning of the words. It is clear that the dancer does not understand the song, or the language and it is clear that the dancer and/or his or her teacher did not take the time to check it out.
"Once you know the meaning, you can interpret it in dance as you choose. There are as many ways to tell the story as there are dancers, and once you know and understand the story, you can have fun "telling" it. The same is true of both Hawaiian and English lyric songs.
"Remember, that is what you are doing and it is never more true than in `auana, where you are free to improvise. The restrictions of kahiko do not apply in `auana. The word 'auana means to "wander, drift, ramble, go from place to place, to stray morally or mentally."
"To begin with, when I teach workshops, I share the lyrics and the meaning, tell a little bit about each song, including when and why it was written, by whom and for whom if those things are known. Then I share my choreography and teach students to dance the lyrics. And once they have learned how I interpret them, they are free to modify that interpretation and to dance them as they feel them.
"When they leave my class, my students may feel that they like the way they learned it and want to continue to dance it that way; or they might want to choreograph the song in their own style. That is fine. That is `auana. But at least they will know that they have the correct lyrics to the songs that I teach. And I hope they like them enough to want to dance them, and that they will enjoy dancing them."
Carmen specializes in songs such as "Mi Nei," "Keaukaha," "Kona," "Ho`onanea," "Papalina Lahilahi," "Kipukai," "Pua `Olena," "Pua Lililehua," "Manowaiopuna," and such popular English-lyric hulas as "Haole Hula," "Lovely Hula Hands," "Song of Old Hawai`i," "Singing Bamboo," and more.
* * *
Hula `auana is the free form of hula, less restricted than the kahiko, or more traditional style. `Auana means "to wander, drift, ramble, go from place to place, to stray." This form then, lends itself to more expression of the individual dancer. It allows the dancer to project a personality and, in the keeping of the Polynesian style of rejecting mechanization, it allows the dancer to dance a song differently each time it is performed. There are no hard, fast rules in `auana, and when dancing solo, the dancer is not obligated to perform precisely the same as other dancers. It is this freedom that separates solo dancing from the chorus line type of hula taught in most halau hula.
Some things you should remember:
The importance of the language. Check the lyrics (whether they are in Hawaiian or English) to be certain they are correct. If possible, seek out the composer, or the publisher. Learn the lyrics and the meaning as well as any kaona or hidden meaning in the song--BEFORE you choreograph or learn to dance or teach the song.
The importance of instruction. If you are learning the mele/hula from a teacher, learn it as it is being taught. Once you have learned the song properly, then you may change it to suit your own style or mana`o.
Dance with feeling. You don't need to do it exactly the same way each time you perform a song. That's one of the big differences and wonderful advantages of being a solo dancer instead of dancing in a chorus line. You may feel differently, and you may project differently, each time you dance a song--depending upon many variables, including your audience. In that regard, solo hula may be more Hawaiian than the chorus line halau performances, where precision is required.
Have fun learning
. . . and dancing. That's what it's all about. It should be fun to dance,
fun to practice, and fun to perform. Not that becoming a good solo dancer is any less hard work than dancing in a halau, or any easier. It is more of a challenge, as you are able to be an individual, project your own personality into every performance. You are the star. You are in the spotlight. Every eye is on you when you are a solo dancer. It can be the most exciting thing you have ever done.
Carmen U`ilani Haugen
Honolulu, O`ahu, Hawai`i
* * *
Only ancients were in step with true hula kahiko
By Carmen Haugen
(reprinted from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin)
With all due respect
to those who know so much more than I know about the hula, I would like to make
some observations -- as a Hawaiian and as a dancer -- about the growing controversy
over what is and what is not kahiko, or ancient hula.
So little is known about what actually took place in the days of old that it is virtually impossible for anyone to say "this is right" or "that is wrong." We must assume that all of what we now see being performed reflects some changes.
Like the language and the music of Hawaii, the dance is undergoing constant change. It is obviously alive and well and, as a living thing, it is growing. For that we should all be thankful. We are seeing an evolution, more highly accelerated than most of us realize. It is exciting, even if we recognize that what is being done is a far cry from what was done in ancient Hawaii.
New songs and new chants call for new motions and new steps. New ideas lead to new styles of choreography. All of what we are seeing performed today had its beginnings in the hula of old Hawaii, but so much has changed that it should probably be called "kahiko style" rather than kahiko.
Remember that there is no one around today who is familiar with what was done in the ancient times. And that includes the kumu hula (hula teachers), the judges of our competitions, even the self-styled "experts" and yes, even our most revered kupuna (elders).
Let's not fault the very creative and innovative kumu hula who are introducing these new steps, new rhythms, new moves, and who are, in turn teaching them to their students. Applaud them for their creativity.
If there are any "experts" among us who think the halau (hula group, long house where hula is taught) of today should teach only what "they" think is correct, then they should build their kuahu (altar) on the eastern wall of the halau, for the Hawaiians wished for life, health and growth in dancing and expressed by building the altar on the side toward the sunrise.
They should also offer a hog at the initiation ceremony, cut off a piece of its head and give it to each pupil before they partake of the rest of the feast.
They should also refuse to eat sugar cane, taro tops, squid and the sea weed known as lipe`epe`e until after graduation; avoid all contact with dead bodies; stop paring their nails, cutting their hair and shaving; put on their pa`u, kikepa, kupe`e and leis only while the appropriate mele is being chanted; not share their halau feasts with any outsiders; throw all leftovers into the sea or a deep stream so no one would be defiled by stepping on them; use a password chant or mele kahea (calling song) to gain entry to the halau; stop all quarreling; abstain from criticizing the methods of another school of hula; and wait prayerfully for Laka's instructions on new dances.
According to our most noted historians, these are some of the things done by students and teachers of hula in the "good old days."
We are also told that Laka, diety of the hula, like honesty among her/his devotees.
I can't help but feel that Laka would have smiled favorably on the kumu hula of today who are creating new steps, new motions, even new costumes, and who are taking credit for having done so. Those who pretend to "know" and who criticize them are violating one of the cardinal rules of the halau and the discipline and probably not winning any points with Laka.
If you want to be a purist, dance and chant day and night, leaving the halau only to relieve nature; refrain from kissing and do not sleep with your spouse until after graduation.
This is the way it was. And remember, `a`ohe i pau ka `ike i ka halau ho`okahi -- "all knowledge was not taught in one school."
Carmen Haugen, a native of Maui, is a professional dancer who performs nightly at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
* * *
By Amy Stillman
The hula has for a
long time evoked such images of Hawai`i as sand, surf, soft tropical breezes
and pretty dancing girls in alluring grass skirts. Hand gestures interpret stories
of little grass shacks and cockeyed mayors; some songs suggest that the viewer
watch only the hands. These notions are a far cry from the serious side of hula
that casual visitors rarely see. It often comes as a surprise to them to learn
that hula is more than wiggle-wiggle and languid hand motions.
Hula in pre-European times was originally connected with religious temple ceremonies. Offerings of certain plants and foods were made to Laka, goddess of the hula. From Laka would come understanding and inspiration, which the student applied to dances performed on the temple platform in honor of other gods. Training was also surrounded by various rituals and prayers. Even the donning of dance costumes and wreaths was accompanied by chanted prayers. Although Hawaiians today are largely Christians and no longer worship the old gods, feelings of respect for Laka are still taught, and some of the rituals, particularly those for dressing, may still be observed.
When the New England missionaries arrived in Hawai`i in 1820, they sought to eradicate the hula. To their Puritanical senses, the hula was vile and obscene; it represented all that they opposed. Throughout the nineteenth century, the hula was even subjected to criticism from a growing number of converted Hawaiians. King Kalakaua, who ascended the throne in 1874, encouraged a revival of the hula, and thus it was saved from decline. During Kalakaua's time, a new style also emerged and became the rage after the turn of the century. This new style, known today as "modern hula," used the then newly introduced ti-leaf skirt, and eventually was performed to songs with English lyrics, for the benefit of tourists and audiences outside Hawai`i. Once again, the older, traditional hula declined in favor of this newer, lighter and showier hula. A recent resurgence of Hawaiian ethnicity has fostered renewed interest in the older dances.
Serious students study more than dance movements, for the hula embraces all aspects of Hawaiian life. The most important element in Hawaiian music and dance is poetry. The sentiments expressed in song texts range from love and awareness of the land, to honor and respect for the Hawaiian gods and chiefs of bygone days. Training in the hula often begins with the study of song texts, often a difficult task.
To learn the dances properly, a prospective student seeks out a kumu hula (dance master). The term kumu means source, an appropriate title for the master who is a source of knowledge and understanding into the deep feelings expressed in hula.
Students learn many different types of dances in standing and sitting positions. They must also learn to use various musical instruments. In contrast to the `ukulele and guitar ensemble which accompanies hula performed in Waikiki today, the older dances are accompanied by percussive rhythm instruments. One of the most commonly used is the ipu heke made of two gourds joined at the necks. It is played by thumping it on a mat, then slapping it with the fingers of the right hand.
A colorful instrument seen today is the `uli`uli, a feathered gourd rattle. In older hula each dancer uses only one; in more modern dances, dancers use two `uli`uli. The feathers are dyed in bright colors and blended in gay combinations. The sound of the `uli`uli is said to imitate palm tree leaves rustling in the breeze.
Another accompaniment is the pu`ili, a split bamboo instrument. In older dances, each dancer used only one, and produces a sound by striking it against the left hand, both shoulders, and the ground. In modern hula, each dancer uses a pair, and strikes them against each other. The sound of the pu`ili is also said to imitate leaves rustling in the breeze.
Changes in the hula have been many and far-reaching; a Hawaiian of older days would perhaps be hard pressed to recognize the myriad of forms the hula takes today. Having persisted in the face of adversity, the hula has a special meaning for Hawaiians today. Whatever the occasion, and whether stately older dances or the lively modern ones are performed, dancing the hula affords Hawaiians the opportunity to express the sentiment "This is my culture, and I'm proud to share it."
Reprinted from The Land of Aloha, published by Carlino Giampolo. Dr. Amy Stillman is an ethnomusicologist, specializing in the music of Hawai`i and Tahiti.