STORIES / QRA

ISLAND GIRL

Ashley Snowden was rebirthed through Hula
Now she's sharing those lessons  

Video + Images captured by Jeremy Sinclair

I’ll never forget - or I’ll always remember - when Ashley joined our Hawaiian Hula dance class

Two of her babies were hanging in the corner of the dance floor, next to our Kumu (dance teacher) and when the littlest one wanted her mom’s attention Ashley just picked her up, strapped her on her body, and proceeded to dance the rest of the class with her baby.

It seemed so effortless - and I was just struggling to still just learn the moves, and she was just following along like she didn’t have another human strapped to her body

Needless to say - it was love at first Ka’o (it’s a Hula thing)

RA: How did you fall in love with Hula? What draws you to it as an art form?


AS: Last year, 2 weeks before my 33rd birthday, I was invited by my friend Zachariah to come to hula class. Little did he know how much I needed to be in that space. Not just the dancing, but the aspect of being new at something again— a student. And the sisterhood that came at a time when I felt alone and misunderstood by some of the women who were in and out of my life so quickly, these beautiful souls swooped in and poured into me in deep and powerful ways.

Even more incredible, they’ve remained a constant in my life for just over a year, which really is a short time in the grand scheme of things, but for someone like me who has always lived a transient life, one year with the same tribe is an incredible milestone..

About 12 years ago, I started taking a Tahitian dance class while teaching in Indianapolis (Hula in Indy was like finding an oasis in a desert).  I’ve been deeply attracted to Polynesian culture since childhood. When I was 8, I read about a Hawaiian family who lived near a volcano. They lost their father when the volcano erupted, but found new life growing in the crevices of the dried lava where their father perished. This touched me deeply and gave me a new reverence for not only island life, but death, transcendence, rebirth, and perseverance.

Hula found me at a time when I felt like the earth was burning around me, and it helped me to persevere by seeing the growth that was pushing through the cracks of my life..In a year, I’ve been able to regain control and confidence over my body (therapy for diastasis recti— the condition that makes many assume I’m pregnant), I’ve learned technique, choreography, language and culture, sewing, chanting/singing, multitasking (dancing while nursing and dancing while singing), and I’ve bonded with some of the most amazing humans on this planet.

My Kumu (teacher) asked me on my very first day last April, If I would be joining our halau (class) to perform for her Kumu in Hawaii that October, and by the grace and power of manifestation, I did! Her love, wisdom, patience, and knowing has culminated into one of the safest places I’ve ever felt besides home. 

And though it’s only been a year for me, Kuma and all of my Hula Ohana have truly made me fee like I’ve been a part of the tribe since it’s inception.The dance is an ode to my Kumu, my halau, my spirit, for crossing back over itself.  For my inner child knowing what she needed, and leading right to the place where it all began.

Hula is beautiful, but it’s not easy. It’s graceful, but it makes for a strong, resilient body. It’s cultural, but the journey into the expressions of Hula are existential. I have a long way to go, but I’m deeply grateful for all the stamina I’ve built in my first year as a human (student) of hula and of life. 

RA: Your family is so beautiful - how does dance inform your journey as a mother?

AS: Firstly, thank you! I am definitely grateful for my little family and feel so proud to be a mother, even when it’s hard! Like dance, it takes great courage, consistency, and strength to not only do the physical act of dancing, but to also get lost in the natural flow, expression, and energy of what dance can evoke. This is the same as motherhood to me.  A mother learns to be all of these things, all the while remaining completely open to whatever may come up along the way—at least that is what *I* have learned. To dance comes in many styles, and one can certainly be coordinated and choreographed. But one can also be free and unbridled. I remember when I first started dancing with Kumu Anna Liza. I would bring my 3 children with me to class. My youngest was still breastfeeding and very much attached at my hip. Because I was determined to finally get lost in the Hula, I was prepared to do whatever I could to make sure both baby and me were able to flow. Often times, this meant I would carry baby on my back while I danced! It really was no question for me, because the nature of Hula as sacred as is the nature of motherhood. And though I was the only mama dancing with a baby on her back, I certainly was not the only mama. I got the fuel to persevere in this way from watching the mothers of the group “mother”. Some of these mothers had children dancing in class, some of them had children who refused to dance, and all of it was perfect. Finally! I had found my tribe!

RA: Tell us more about your current projects and performances? What are you excited about presenting to the world in the next year?

AS: Looking back over the last year, I think most people would agree that it’s been one helluva ride! And honestly, when life as we once knew it came to a halt, pieces of who I was died along with it. Many of us experienced great loss, and I was no different. So this next year is about rebirth for me. Who I knew myself to be is no longer, and I’m completely at peace with that. Releasing people, beliefs, patterns, and small thoughts I held about who I was are all a part of my rebirth story! I started my online herbal business called ALOHA SNOW, which supports healing the whole person (my focus is on people who identify as women). I am writing my first book and I’m also working on creating a new show! More details to unfold very soon! Of course, I am still dancing the Hula with Kumu Anna Liza, because I love her and what our Halau stands for. Our classes have mostly been virtual, but as we begin learning how to live with and accept that the coronavirus may be here to stay, my prayer is that I can dance and perform with my Halau Hula in person once again! No more baby on my back, however, as my little one is now 3! My ultimate goal is to be of service during my time on this beautiful planet of ours. I do that by sharing what I’ve learned along my spiritual journey, supporting others who are also here to heal the world, as well as helping people (especially those who identify as women) step back into their personal, spiritual power, after such a long, and often hard journey through patriarchal rule.

Ashley Snowden
Captured in Topanga by Jeremy Sinclair
"A Ko’olau Au" Music Recorded by Xyleya
Chanting by Kumu Hula Kalauokekupukupu Anna Liza Abuan Mckeon
Wearing SS21

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