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.