Kauai Stories 1

Kauai Stories 1: Keeping Hula Alive (excerpt)

Kauai Stories 1 on AmazonLeinaala Pavao Jardin began dancing hula when she was three years old, continuing through high school and college, earning titles along the way including Miss Keiki (Child) Hula of Kauai, and winning the coveted Hawaiian Language Award at the Merrie Monarch Festival, the world’s most prestigious hula celebration. Leinaala became a kumu (teacher) and started her own hula halau (school) on Kauai in 1997 named Halau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leinaala. Her students continue to win numerous titles.

Leinaala’s dark eyes shine brightly as she speaks enthusiastically and joyfully about hula, laughing heartily and often, hands intuitively forming hula movements as she illustrates stories. She shares her journey to becoming a kumu, hula history on Kauai and the responsibility of keeping Hawaii’s traditional dance alive.



Hula is my passion. When I dance, I feel humbled but filled with pride. We are fortunate to be able to dance the hula because it was lost for so long.

I studied hula growing up on Kauai and that was my foundation, but when I went to the Big Island for college at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and joined Kumu Rae Fonseca’s halau (school), that’s when I really learned about hula. When he gave you your mele (song), he didn’t give you the English to it. It was in Hawaiian and you translated it together as a group, everybody dictionary in hand.

We learned how mele were composed. Normally if you’re writing a song about a loved one, you don’t even make mention of that loved one. You compare that person to a special flower or a special bird. Composers use the blossom as a metaphor for a loved one or a relationship. If a song is about surfing, the surfboard going in and out of the waves could be a metaphor for making love. That’s why when teaching hula, I’ve got to research the mele. You can’t just pick a song and teach it. If it’s a surfing song, you have no idea what’s behind it, and here I’m going to send out 12 little boys dancing this song!

When I studied with Kumu Rae, we made all our implements; we made all our leis. When I had been with his halau for only about three or four months, there were probably about 100 ladies trying out for the Merrie Monarch Festival and I got selected! Rae said, “Everybody has to sew their dresses.” So I called my mom and said, “You have to find me a seamstress.” Little did I know that he meant that we were going to sew our own dresses. That is when hula became real to me. It wasn’t store-bought.   

Read more of Leina'ala's story in Kauai Stories 1


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