Twenty-five years ago, Na Mamo, a Hawaiian nonprofit organization, yearned for an event that would bring together the community to celebrate Hawaiian dance, language and tradition.
“There were a handful of us living in the mainland and we were all starting with our young families,” said executive director Keikilani Lyons. “We live so far away [from home] so we wanted an opportunity each year for our children to learn about our culture.”
Na Mamo will host the 25th annual E Hula Mau Labor Day weekend and will be one of the biggest hula and chant competitions in Southern California. The three-day event will be held at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center where 10 hula schools from across California will perform ancient dances, “kahiko,” and modern dances, “auana.”
Los Alamitos hula school Halau Hula o Noalani, will be one of the 10 schools, or “halau,” participating in the competition.
“As a halau, our role is to bring our students to not just compete, but share our hula traditions,” said Halau Hula o Noalani hula master, or “kumu,” Samantha Aguon.
Each halau comes from a different hula tradition and lineage. According to Aguon, Halau Hula o Noalani’s hula lineage comes from the Big Island of Hawaii and celebrates the fire traditions of Pele, goddess of volcanoes and fire.
One group from Halau Hula o Noalani will be performing a chant called “ku i wailua.”
“The chant is actually from the epic Pele mythology and talks about digging deep through their layers to get to the core of themselves and their ancestry,” Aguon said. “We’re excited to share that especially now because it’s really a time that Hawaiians and a lot of indigenous people around the world are really going through that.”
Outside the theater, a festival will be open to the public for free in the courtyard. There, guests will have the opportunity to taste traditional Hawaiian cuisine, participate in plumeria planting workshops and touch live sea animals at a touch tank provided by the Aquarium of the Pacific.
“You will be transported to Hawaii where the backyard of the event is our ocean,” Lyons said. “We can smell it, we can see it, we can touch it.”
Apart from hula, the event will also highlight other Polynesian dances such as Tahitian performances presented by Polynesian dance schools Hiva Katoa and Le Polynesia.
“This event is very important to us, because [the Polynesian community is] a small population and if we don’t perpetuate our traditions and culture, then it could disappear,” Lyons said.
General admission tickets are $25 available through Ticketmaster or at the box office the day of the event.