via Ka Leo O Hawaii: UH Manoa Student College Newspaper & Media – Hula goes to Rome.

By Junghee Lee


Published: Thursday, July 23, 2009

Updated: Monday, August 3, 2009


Jung Hee

Leimomi Ho’s halau, Keali’ika’apunihonua Ke’ena A’o Hula, having already traveled to Asia, Tahiti and the mainland, will finally make its way to Europe, where it will perform in correspondence with Father Damien’s sainthood canonization on Oct. 11, 2009 in the Vatican in Rome.

Keali’ika’apunihonua Ke’ena A’o Hula refers to “the chief that travels around the world in a place of learning,” according to Leimomi Ho, kumu (teacher) hula of the halau (hula studio). Just as their name implies, this particular halau will be the first to send 30 students to dance the hula in Rome.

“We are very excited to be able to take our hula and share it in Rome,” said Ho.

Italy’s capital city will host Father Damien’s canonization as a saint on Oct. 11, 2009, during which the students of the halau will perform. Since Father Damien was born in Belgium, they will first travel to his birthplace to honor him, then to the Vatican in Rome to perform.

Victoria Keali’ika’apunihonua I’i Rodrigues, the hanai (adopted) mother of Ho, established the halau in 1985. Rodrigues’ father was a merchant seaman who traveled around the world, giving light to the “ka’apunihonua” in her name. Her name also represents King David Kalakaua, since he was the only Hawaiian king known to have traveled around the world. “Keali’i” means chief, which represents her father, the patriarch of her family.

After the passing of Rodrigues, Ho took over the halau as the kumu hula.

“(Rodrigues) decided to start our own halau. Prior to that we were helping out other halaus, so it’s her legacy and hula traditions that I carry on,” said Ho, who first learned hula from her mother.

“I was told that I could dance before I could walk,” said Ho. She started teaching hula at a very young age, and when her mother established her own halau, she assisted her mother. Students appreciate and respect Ho’s teaching.

“(Ho) is family and she cares about us. When dancing, she demands excellence to bring out the best dancer in us, and teaches us to respect hula,” said Kinau Gardner, Ho’s student.

Many of Ho’s students have been with her since they were young.

“I’ve been with the h?lau since I was a keiki … I left the halau when I was younger, and I recently started to dance again,” said Gardner, who is a UH alumna with a master’s in education.

Ho also taught Hawaiian hula as a three-credit course for 13 years at Kapi’olani Community College (KCC).

“I’ve had some UH students who attended KCC to just learn hula,” said Ho.

All are invited to join her halau, if they desire to learn more hula outside of class.

“Hula was a gift that was given to me and I’m going to try to share it the best that I can,” said Ho.

Ho’s halau has performed in Japan, China, Tahiti and the mainland. However, she feels most proud that hula was able to make it all the way to Europe.

“Hula is our life because through hula we share our Hawai’i, in telling them the stories and expressing how we feel about our Hawai’i,” said Ho.