Hula in the Hills

by John Alecca

Wednesday, October 21st was a beautifully clear and sunny morning.  A morning filled with excitement.  At last, we were going to film Hālau o Keikiali’i, one of our arts partners at Cal Shakes’ majestic Bruns Amphitheater. We knew that bringing Kumu Kawika Alfiche’s assembly program, Traditional Hawaiian Dance and Music, to the virtual classroom wasn’t without its challenges and we were ready.

Driving up the roadway soldiered by eucalyptus trees and the incredible autumn views of the rolling hills of the Siesta Valley, I became aware of an odd quietness that overcame me. This was not going to be a normal day.

As per our detailed COVID-19 protocols, getting out of the car with face masks on, we were met by production manager Haley Miller with thermometer in hand. These sobering details reaffirmed that social distance protocols are essential, and we truly began to feel safe and motivated to do our work.

With an empty amphitheater, three strategically placed cameras, a sound engineer in the back booth, and six-foot perimeter outlines on the stage, Kumu Kawika and the five dancers were ready. 

Paying tribute to the land we were honored to be performing on and celebrating Hawaiian heritage through dance, music and storytelling in this natural outdoor environment was a dream. 

Needless to say, as I drove away that afternoon, I was filled with the aloha that the day offered in all of its challenges and triumphs: this was the FIRST TIME the dancers had a chance to see each other in person and dance together since March; this was the first film project produced by Young Audiences of Northern California; this was the first socially-distanced gathering as a team to do the work we know we must do!

We strive to create content in this new world that will allow children to feel less isolated, provide a forum for cultural pride, and open up creative outlets for self-expression and student engagement. This cannot happen without the tremendous support of our strategic partners such as Cal Shakes, the East Bay Video Core, our community engagement partner Ruth Mankin, and the generous support of our funders and donors. 

We are currently in the final editing stages of this 40-minute performance and will have it ready to stream in virtual classrooms throughout the entire Bay Area at the beginning of the new calendar year.