Want to catch a hula show while visiting the Garden Island? Every Saturday at 1:30 a small, but dedicated group of ladies perform in the food court of the Princeville Shopping Center. They are called the Hula Maidens (aka Aunties) and the love they share for this art form is tangible. The dancers are all Kupuna (seniors), ranging in age from 54 to 82. Prior to Covid and our island shutdown, the group consisted of over 30 members. Now the group has 14 and would be happy to welcome newcomers who are interested in learning this Hawaiian language of dance. During the performance, visitors are always invited to participate.
The hula group is led by Auntie Bev Kauanui who was born on Oahu and moved to Kauai after graduating from high school in 1966. From 1969 to 1973 she danced hula, played Hawaiian music, and sang at the Coco Palms Hotel. At the same time you might have seen her performing on the Wailua River boats. Since then she has been playing and singing at many of the hotels around the island. Auntie Bev likes to be called a “sharer” of the Hawaiian language, history, and stories through hula, ukulele, and lei making. She is not a formal Kumu (Hawaiian teacher or leader), but she has been teaching many of the ladies for eleven years now.
Haunani, Bev’s niece, has joined Auntie Bev playing and singing with the group for the last four years. She is famous for her 12-string steel guitar playing and singing. From 1982 to 1994 she performed on the cruise ships, and then became a solo artist playing all the instruments and producing several CDs (available for purchase at the show). Recently retired, she performed on the river tours for thirty years. Here is a snippet of her fabulous guitar playing.
The Hula Maidens practice three times a week. I personally know many of these ladies and they love every minute of their time with Auntie Bev. I asked one of these friends what she enjoyed most about participating in this hula group: “I am honored to be in our diverse group of Kupuna women, enjoying this ohana (family) that we have become, with love for Kauai, at the heart and soul of the Hawaiian culture, for over 10 years with Auntie Bev. Hula, is movement and storytelling through the hands, a kind of sign language. Learning the Hawaiian language through stories of the songs, and then REMEMBERING it all and expressing the joy and love from the heart, is our challenge. Auntie Bev’s patience is stellar, her recall is amazing, and her tender conveyance of her knowledge with so much love as we attempt to embrace a culture we only connected with in our elder years, is profound. Hula, Auntie Bev, these ladies, have enriched my life beyond measure.”
One of the Hula Maidens (not pictured) is Jill Landis. You may recognize her name as a best selling author. She has written many, many novels, but her Tiki Goddess Mystery Series features her hula sisters as characters in the series. The first one is called, Mai Tai One On. For a fun read, check it out on Amazon.
Besides practicing, these ladies occasionally perform at restaurants, special events, and festivals. You may see them dancing at Tahiti Nui or Hanalei Bay Resort. In 2019 they were honored to be invited to perform at Kauai’s Mokihana Competition which is a week long celebration of Hawaiian culture.
But their favorite weekend of the year is the second Saturday in October when they are invited to perform for the Queen at the Queen Emmalani Festival in Kokee. Here is footage from this cultural event done virtually in 2020. The Hula Maidens dance at 41:08. They are already looking forward to 2022.
Luaus are fabulous, but they often fill up fast and are quite expensive. An hour at the Princeville Shopping Center, watching and listening to this hula show, will give you a taste of what the power of this dance can do for the spirit. And, guess what? It’s free, with donations much appreciated. So, be sure to pencil it in when you visit the north shore of Kauai.
For residents wanting to join the fun, give Kalaya a call at (808) 634-8858.
The Princeville Shopping Center is on Kuhio Highway: Googlemaps
Look for this sign:
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