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Kekoa The Hula Dancer

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Photo by Dean Carrillo

Photo by Dean Carrillo

Photo by Dean Carrillo

Imari Olipani, Editor

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Merrie Monarch has been a widely celebrated event on the Big Island that many halaus from different islands come to perform in. This year, for the second year in a row, junior Tanner Foster had the opportunity to perform with his Halau Hula Ka Lehua Tuahine under the Direction of Kumu Hula Ka’ilihiwa Vaughan-Darval

“For over 50 years the Merrie Monarch has been a thriving, week long festival [that] attracts many visitors worldwide to partake in the festivities. With things like the Ho’olaule’a, the craft fairs, and the Ho’ike, as well as the 3-day competition itself, there is a lot to do in Hilo during the week of the festival,” Foster said.

Foster has been dancing hula for nearly three years, and has since been growing in his abilities and passion. He compared the art of hula to storytelling and justified that maybe that is the reason, among other things, why he’s so enchanted with this particular form of dance.

“I don’t know how to really describe why I’m so passionate about hula. I think that, for me, it allows me to perpetuate my culture and to learn most of the key aspects of the Hawaiian values. These values are speaking, chanting, dancing, lei making, etc. and I very much appreciate every opportunity I am given to share these things and learn more about them. I think another thing is that I’m actually telling a story. In many dances, such as ballet, there is a story behind the dance, but in hula, you’re literally taking the words and ‘translating’ them into motions,” Foster explained.

Before Foster and his Halau were able to gracefully tell their story through hula, however, he described the preparation and moments leading up to the performance as not-so-graceful, and a little bit nerve-wracking.

“Leading up to the performance I get a little nervous, but at the same time, everything feels fast paced and rushed. It’s nice to be in costume, but the only thing is that it hurts to have my costume and my adornments tied so tight. When the announcer, Kimo Kahoano, calls our name, my thoughts are to not mess up, to dance what we’ve practiced, to make my ancestors proud, to give life to our song, and so forth,” Foster described.

Foster’s feelings of nervousness and his million thoughts don’t show on stage as he dances fluidly with his halau. He tried to recall his feelings while he performs; the moment he’s worked very hard for and had invested so much time into has arrived.

“A lot of dancers say you can’t remember a thing, but for me, I remember everything. I mean, being on stage in general is a dream come true. There’s not many words that can describe the feeling I get when I dance, besides, the stage was slippery,” Foster recalled.

Amidst all the praise that Foster received because of his performance in the Merrie Monarch, his motivation and foundation has always been his loved ones. He dedicated his performance to all of them.

“My first dance this year was literally for Queen Lili’uokalani so I dedicated my performance to her. I also dedicated it to my hula siblings that supported and worked so hard to help us achieve this experience. My parents, who are my number one fans and payed for everything. My twin brother who always supports me in everything I do. Lastly, my grandma, who recently passed last year.”

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Kekoa The Hula Dancer