Pōhaku and The Hula Show Program Notes: Identity As A Constellation | By Marie Tollon

In a 2002 essay, writer and performer Anna Deveare Smith pointed to the multiplicity of identity: “Is it possible that, now, we can look at identity as a constellation:/That each of us has inside of ourselves many fragments?/And the fragments are not neurosis.” Bringing those fragments into a conversation with each other can become the platform for an artistic journey. Such is the case for dance makers Christopher K. Morgan and Patrick Makuakane, who both share Hawaiian roots and will open ODC’s Walking Distance Dance Festival tomorrow.

Christopher K. Morgan in "Pōhaku"

Christopher K. Morgan
in “Pōhaku”

In that journey, an inevitable interaction between the old and the new takes place–whether it is expressed through movements, costumes or musical score. Morgan’s Pōhaku soundscape incorporates ancient Hawaiian sounds – played on the Ipu gourd or the Pahu drum- with the contemporary ones made by an electric cello. Similarly Makuakane’s modern hula pieces are performed with contemporary songs and The Hula Show’s costumes display modern aesthetics applied to traditional ones.

A modern dancer for the past 20 years, Morgan became interested in how the Polynesian dances that he learned as a child had influenced his work. Pōhaku is the culmination of a 10-year long process that included numerous trips and residencies in Hawaii and is partly inspired by Morgan’s late cousin, hula master John Kaimikaua.

Patrick Makuakane's "Hula Show" Photo by Lin Cariffe

Patrick Makuakane’s
“Hula Show”
Photo by Lin Cariffe

Founded in 1985, Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu combines hula kahiko -which involves traditional movement vocabulary accompanied by chanting and percussive instruments- with hula a’uana, or contemporary hula danced to the accompaniment of popular music. Some of the pieces honor political figures – from Robert W. Wilcox, who led an insurrection in an effort to return rights to the monarchy and to Native Hawaiian in 1889, to president Obama who was born in the same hospital as Makuakane, only two weeks apart.

As Morgan explains, “no matter what our identities are, we are all dealing with multiplicity. I would hope that when people see the specifics of one story, they would reflect on their own.”



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