Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu
DANCE ORIGIN: Hawai‘i
Founded in 1985, Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu ("The Many Feathered Wreaths at the Summit, Held in High Esteem”) is committed to the preservation and education of Hawaiian culture through hula. It offers classes in language, culture, and art, and its trademark hula mua performances present traditional hula as a living and evolving art form.
The world premiere Māui Turning Back the Sky retells several traditional stories: O Ka ‘Au Moana – Māui’s Travels by Sea; Pūka‘i‘ka‘i Ka Lani – Lift the Sky; E Ho‘oloulou ‘O Pimoe – The Hooking of Pimoe; Hulei Nā Moku – Raise the Islands; He Wahine Namunamu Ana – The Grumbling Woman; and He Pāhelele Ka Lā – Ensnare the Sun. The choreography combines modern and traditional Hawaiian hula, and the dancers use traditional Hawaiian percussive instruments, chant, and the anvil and mallet (kua and hohoai) which are used to make kapa (bark cloth).
Kumu Hula Patrick Makuakāne choreographed this piece for the Festival stage—in collaboration with historian Lucia Tarallo Jensen. In her book, "Māui Dialogues" Jensen retells the stories of Māui, a revered 1st century ancestral navigator and explorer faced with twelve challenges. She explains how Hawaiian stories passed crucial information between islanders—and helped them memorize a navigational chart of the Pacific.
One story explains how the sun alters its speed throughout the year, and how the solstices battle—how the dark of night and light of day ensnare and defeat one another. Through these Māui stories, important local knowledge of stars, winds, and currents was communicated from one generation to the next.
Long ago, ‘Alae-nui-a Hina—a bailer turned beautiful woman—helped Māui catch his father, a giant, ancient ulua fish. ‘Alae swam fathoms to find the ulua, and she drove Māui’s magic hook deep into the ulua's jaw so Māui could reel him in. As the fish surfaced, a string of islands came up, hooked onto its craggy back. Māui’s brothers looked back, and this broke the spell. So the ulua slipped away – and the islands slid apart into their present positions.
This story is an astronomical map: Māui’s adventures follow the celestial placement of the Ka Makau I‘a hook (in Scorpio); attached to the Manaiakalani fishing line (cast through the Milky Way); by three Māui brothers in their canoe (Orion's belt); to the Ulua (in Cassiopeia/Gemini); baited by the ‘Alae (in Aquila).
Historian and author Lucia Tarallo Jensen is co-founder and curator of the indigenous Hawaiian contemporary art group, Hale Nauā III. Her recent book, Daughters of Haumea, won the 2006 Ka Palapala Po‘okela award for excellence.