Members of Nā Haumāna O Hawai’i, NHOH, have officially entered crunch time as they polish down each dance routine for this year’s Lū’au. In less than two weeks before the official performance, the dancers, parents, and everyone in between will show off what they have been organizing for the past year.
The 56 annual Lū’au happening on Saturday, April 9, will be focusing on their theme entitled “I Ka Wā Mua, I Ka Wā Ma Hope,” which translates to “The Future is in the Past.”
“It kind of symbolizes how we look to our ancestors and our elders to have the knowledge and to gain the morals and the values to carry us into our future,” junior Lū’au Committee Chair and Dance Instructor Shawny Uehira said.
The Lū’au will start off with a concession starting at 11 a.m. to foods local to Hawai’i and different types of jellies, cookies, etc that aren’t always available on the mainland. A dinner of traditional Hawaiian foods will be available at 4:30 p.m., and the actual performance will begin at 6:30 p.m.
NHOH sees the Lū’au each spring semester as a chance to show Pacific University students a glimpse of the the cultures and traditions that Hawai’i consists of.
“It’s Hawaii club’s way of presenting, not only Hawaiian culture, but a lot of cultures that we’re familiar with in Hawai’i, so we do Maori dances, Samoan dances, Tahitian, and Filipino,” junior chair member and dancer Kehaulani Lee said.
Being part of Lū’au for the past three years, Lee appreciates how the different dances show how the state of Hawaii is truly a melting pot.
“Coming from Hawaii, there’s a lot more than just the Hawaiians,” Lee said “We’re just a very diverse group, and so we like to show all of the cultures that we’re familiar with. It’s just a way for us to be connected to home and to share with others what we’re used to.”
One of the dances that Uehira has choreographed represents this by using the dance moves to show the audience the story of the boat voyage called Hokule’a.
“It’s a group of people from Hawaii, and they gather together and voyage across the Pacific Ocean, go to other Pacific islands, and live on the canoe for months at a time,” junior instructor and dance chair Kylie Koga said. “It’s pretty much just practicing the traditions and practicing different practices like the ancient Hawaiians did.”
An estimate of 300 people are involved with making this Lū’au reach the highest quality possible. With such high standards, everyone, including the dancers, put in high amounts of hours each day. For the week before Lū’au, the week consists of running the first and second halves of the show separately on Monday and Tuesday. This is followed by two full runs on the show on Wednesday and Thursday, and a full dress rehearsal on Friday. Each rehearsal begins at 6 p.m., and can continue until midnight.
“It’s a big time commitment, but you reap what you sow, and the performance itself is just breathtaking,” junior Chair member Mikey Fanning said. “Seeing everything come together the day of Lū’au and to see the faces of families, friends, and the people that you don’t know, is always a precious thing.”
Of course, the NHOH members’ families play a vital role in making the events happen. While the students work together during the spring semester, they constantly show awareness that their parents back home play a large role in getting different things done.
“We couldn’t do a lot of the stuff that we have without them,” Lee said. “At home, they are constantly prepping things to get ready to be shipped up here. They spend all day packing those flowers and prepping them, and there’s this whole process that they have to do to make sure that they’re still fresh when they get to us, and that they keep by the time we get them.”
The parents back in Hawaii hold parent committee chairs similar to the student chairs on campus.
“They’re doing just as much work as we are here,” Lee said. “They’ll fly up for the week of Lū’au and they’re helping the whole week. If you walk past the MPR you will constantly see parents and students making leis, making flowers. The parents are in there all day doing things for us.”
Lū’au acts as an opportunity to show off the importance of ‘ohana ,family, in any situation. With the sense of ‘ohana, NHOH extends the meaning of family to all Pacific students, whether or not they are from Hawaii.
Fanning expresses that no student from the mainland should feel discouraged from joining Lū’au or NHOH, as they are both open to anyone interested.
“If you want to do it, do it,” Fanning said. “There’s no saying no to you, because everyone that’s from Hawaii is not the same, and anyone that joins from the mainland is not the same. We’d rather have everyone be able to experience what we grew up with.”
Senior dancer Leah Klaas, a native Oregonian, experienced this during her freshman year at Pacific when her Hawaii-born friends encouraged her to join.
“I suppose you could say that there was a little bit of sort of culture shock, because hawaiian culture, or any kind of culture from Hawaii was never something that I had access to or exposure to,” Klaas said. “I didn’t know any of the dances, I didn’t know the moves, I didn’t know the culture behind it or any of the meanings behind the leis, kahilis or the conch shells, so it was definitely a learning experience.”
Since then, Klaas has continued to participate for three years.
“I’m very glad that I did it, because I don’t think my time at Pacific would be the same at all had I not ever been involved with Lū’au or with NHOH,” Klaas said.
NHOH always show their excitement to make their culture and traditions more accessible.
“When you go to college, you learn about all these different cultures that you’re surrounded by, and Pacific is a big school that really focuses on diversity,” senior dancer Charisse Pudiquet said. “So I feel like for Hawaii Club, it’s a good way for us to bring out our culture for others to understand, because we are off on our own in the middle of the ocean. We’re all the way across the ocean…I think it’s a really great opportunity for students to take advantage to learn about our culture, and where we come from.
Tickets for the Lū’au are on sale online now. Everyone who is able to go is encouraged to secure their tickets before they sell out.