Laguna Woods Hula Club brings a little aloha – Orange County Register

By Pam Houseknecht


The spirit of aloha filled Clubhouse 1 last weekend as the annual Hula Hiehie O Nā Kūpuna, or “Elegant Hula of the Elders” festival, returned to the Village after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

Residents and guests were treated to a day filled with

hula dancing, live music, food and crafts on Saturday August 27.

The theme for this year’s festival was hope, said Aulani Bagalay, the Village Hula Club’s former kumu or Hawaiian teacher.

“We have all been faced with the pandemic and all its sadness. We have all lost loved ones, so we take time to celebrate hope,” Bagalay told the more than 150 people in the audience.

The festival, hosted by the Hula Club, featured 10 visiting Hawaiian clubs from across Southern California, including San Diego, Monterey Park and Cerritos, and one from as far away as Clovis in central California.

  • Members of the Laguna Woods Hula Club pose after performing an auana or modern hula at the Hula Festival at Clubhouse 1 on Saturday, August 27. . (Photo by Pam Houseknecht)

  • Aulani Bagalay, the former kumu of the Laguna Woods Hula Club, or...

    Aulani Bagalay, the former Laguna Woods Hula Club kumu, or Hawaiian instructor, with a gourd drum. (Photo by Pam Houseknecht)

  • Laguna Woods Hula Club executives, left to right, Maudie...

    Laguna Woods Hula Club leaders, left to right, Maudie Romero, club vice president; club founder Jean Sheik; and Eileen Lazar, President. (Photo by Pam Houseknecht)

  • The Laguna Woods Hula Club is hosting a...

    The Laguna Woods Hula Club is hosting a free Hula Festival, featuring senior hula groups from across California, along with Hawaiian music, food, crafts and more, on August 27. (Courtesy of Laguna Woods Hula Club)

  • Mission Viejo's hula group Ka Hula O Aulani...

    Mission Viejo’s Ka Hula O Aulani hula group prepare to dance at the Hula Festival at the Laguna Woods Clubhouse on Saturday, August 27. (Photo by Mark Rabinowitch)

  • Mission Viejo's hula group Ka Hula O Aulani...

    Mission Viejo’s hula group Ka Hula O Aulani performs at the Hula Festival at the Laguna Woods Clubhouse on Saturday, August 27. (Photo by Mark Rabinowitch)

  • Halau Hula I Ka La hula club performs at...

    Halau Hula I Ka La Hula Club performs at the Hula Festival at Laguna Woods Clubhouse 1 on Saturday August 27th. (Photo by Mark Rabinowitch)

Dressed in stunning, colorful Hawaiian outfits, including exotic flower necklaces and head, wrist and ankle ornaments, the dancers performed the graceful kahiko hula – the old traditional style of hula danced to the music of gourds , drums and chants – as well as the livelier modern auana hula, often choreographed on guitar and ukulele.

All of the dancers were 55 or older, Hula Club President Eileen Lazar said.

“Our annual festival started in 2017 because there was no festival to honor our elders” in the Village, Lazar said.

In Hawaiian culture, the kupuna, or grandparents, ancestors, and any respected elders, are revered for their wisdom.

“The elders are the holders of history,” Lazar said. “They are the ones who transmit everything.”

Hula was originally a tool of expression in ancient times for a culture without a written language. The dances and songs have helped preserve and pass on Hawaii’s stories, history, culture and traditions.

“Hula isn’t just a dance for tourists,” Lazar said. “All songs have meaning. They tell a story, about a lover, a person or a place, and the old gods like Pelé and the rulers of the island.

And so, the purpose of the hula festival was to “share our love of hula and its culture with our community,” said Maudie Romero, vice president of the Hula Club.

The Hula Club was formed eight years ago by village resident Jean Sheik, who was born and raised on Oahu, to explore and honor Hawaiian culture through its hula, history, language and crafts.

The club now has about 36 members, the oldest of whom are over 80 years old. The club organizes workshops and offers periodic excursions to Polynesian festivals. He was invited to Kona, Hawaii, in December to dance in a hoike, a traditional hula demonstration, with a Hawaiian halau, or school of hula.

Club members make their own dresses and necklaces and pass this know-how on to others.

Lazar, who was born and raised in West Los Angeles, joined the Hula Club at the request of a friend.

“I’m learning so much about Hawaiian culture and the meaning of the hula,” she said. “It’s so much more when you learn what you’re dancing to.”

The club also provides a place to socialize and make new friends, hone cognitive skills, enjoy fun exercise and have an experience that can be uplifting and spiritual, Lazar and Romero said.

“It’s a great group of ladies. They’re really friendly,” Lazar said. “We are getting along very well.”

The Hula Club is open to all Village residents – “it’s never too late to learn the hula,” Romero said.

The Village Recreation Department offers instructor-led hula lessons Mondays from 1-2:30 p.m. and Fridays from 10-11:30 a.m. at Clubhouse 5 and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. at Clubhouse 1. No experience no hula is required, just a willingness to learn and a dedication to practice the lessons between classes.

For more information or to join the Hula Club, contact Romero at 909-576-2092 or Lazar at 949-454-8841.

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