Hula Class Kicks Off SMC's Dance Series

Hawaii's fierce fire goddess Pele burned up the SMC dance department last Thursday.

Last week, Kumu (teacher) Keali'i Ceballos, a first-time SMC Hula dance instructor, poetically demonstrated hula to an overflowing group of students and community members as part of SMC's Master Dance Series.

"Hula is a way of honoring and being as close to godlike as possible" said Ceballos. And the reason for teaching the class was to bring cultural awareness through the hula dance.

Each hula is a story and hula dancers were in fact considered the historians of the Hawaiian people, passing down history in the form of dance.

The class started off with some traditional chanting that was then incorporated into the dance moves, both actions essential for the next bit: the story.

Hula dances tell stories of the history of ancient Hawaii. Each part of the hula dance has a meaning, and the story expressed last week was about the fire goddess, Pele. According to Ceballos, the chosen dance for last week told a story about Pele's trek down the mountain during a volcanic eruption that occurred on the island in 1977. To this day, the fire goddess is said to reside on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Pele is awakened and is "poetically hungry to eat fish," said Ceballos. The dance expressed her flow down the mountain, destroying everything in her path as she makes her way to the sea. Movements like pushing the earth forward and snapping it back were part of the story.

According to Ceballos, hula dances range in scope from stories about the land, the great migration from Polynesia, royal genealogies and current events. He says that there are already stories about President Obama because he has roots in Hawaii and there will be dances to accompany the meles (chants or songs).

The energy in the room was tangible as dancers and onlookers took turns expressing the story.

Denise Davis, SMC graphic arts major, said it was a fun, good workout and that the "cardio snuck up on you." She said it was her first hula class and enjoyed it because it was easy to follow as an inexperienced dancer.

The class was part of SMC's Master Dance Series, a program sponsored by the SMC Associates. They bring local and nationally acclaimed artists to teach classes that are free and open to the public.

Ceballos is teaching his first Hula dance class at SMC this semester and the class will perform their dance at the end of the semester at the Broad Stage in the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center.

The group is an advanced group of SMC dancers that had to audition for the class and will showcase their performance this May.

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