By Kelly Rodriguez
BRAWLEY — The hula dancers of Kuhai Halau O Kau’ilaua’eleilani Pa Olapa Kahiko, aka Desert Hula, performed beautifully Thursday night at Inferno in Brawley. Onlookers watched the style and grace of traditional hula dancing and were educated in the history of hula. Kristen Outlaw and Miranda Yturralde traveled from Beaumont, CA to perform. The dancers ranged from beginners, the youngest at 4 years of age, to advanced, under the guidance and direction of teacher, Kumu U’ilani Rodriguez.
Hula originated in Hawaii not only for “social enjoyment, but its chants also preserved epic tales, myths, history, and philosophy” (www.HawaiiHistory.org). The ladies are doing just that. Their rigorous training includes the study of the Hawaiian language, history, and culture, along with the songs and movements. The dancers have become a close “ohana” or family, celebrating achievements, birthdays and traveling together. On one such trip, the ladies chose their own gourds to make personal traditional ipu drums, a 20 hour endeavor.
“I had seen the show posted on Facebook and thought it would be a nice evening with my son who is visiting from college,” said Queana Givens. “I thought it was a beautiful, enriching show”
“I danced a different kind of hula when I was growing up. I wanted to check it out to see if it’s something I would put my daughter in,” said Mercedes Watson of Brawley. Her husband saw a flyer at work and mentioned going. Watson’s favorite part was The Little Brown Girl performed by the beginners and Ka Ua I Maelieli where the advanced ladies performed with the gourds.
Hula dancer, Joslynn Rodriguez, 6, said that her favorite part was also “when the beautiful ladies in blue [Outlaw and Yturralde] danced together” to Ka Ua I Maelieli. Both ladies competed in Las Vegas with this particular dance.
Head chef, Aaron Lopez, thanked the ladies for their performance and enjoyed celebrating a culture that is not common in the Imperial Valley.
“I think we did well. I really appreciate the owners of Inferno allowing us to entertain their customers with the ancient Hawaiian stories told through hula.” hula Dancer, Leslie Lara, commented. “They have a terrific stage and the open air atmosphere is wonderful. I think Inferno may bring back life to downtown Brawley with the different styles of entertainment they offer.”
Kumu Rodriguez is hoping to share this experience with the public through additional performances valley wide and expand the “halau” or group. Men, women, and children ages 6 and up are encouraged to LIKE their Facebook page, Desert Hula and inquire with Kumu at 760-403-6492.