Traditional Hula Dancers Prepare For Community Spirit Awards Performance

A woman who has been celebrated in her community as the driving force behind the way Native Hawaiian art and culture has been preserved will take the stage alongside her fellow dancers at this year's 2014 Community Spirit Awards.

"It is a wonderful opportunity to engage with other past recipients and the new honorees," said Vicky Holt Takamine (Native Hawaiian), who was honored with a Community Spirit Award in 2013. She will be traveling to Minneapolis with students from her Pua Ali'i 'Ilima dance studio in Hawaii to perform at this year's honoring.

Takamine, who owns and directs the Pua Ali'i 'Ilima dance studio, has made it her life's work to preserve traditional hula dance and traditional Hawaiian language.

"When you are at the ceremonies, you are among a unique group of select individuals," she said. "These are the people who have accepted the responsibility to carry on these traditions and share them with the next generation. We are excited to share a piece of our culture with the audience in Minneapolis."

Takamine is bringing six dancers and one chanter to perform during the ceremony, which will be held October 18 at The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts in Minneapolis. She will also be onstage as a chanter. She anticipates that it will be an unfamiliar experience for some in the audience.

"I can't presume that all of us from different communities are familiar with Native Hawaiian dance," she said. "Most people have an idea of what it is by what is marketed to them. Their experience that night will be different."

The traditional hula dance, or hula "kahiko" ancient style dance, is the original dance of the Native Hawaiians.

"We'll give them a taste of traditional practices, rather than what the tourist industry often promotes in videos and commercials," she said of the dance, which can also be celebrated and taught, but is an evolved form from the original dances.

Takamine's work following her Community Spirit Award celebration last year has continued wholeheartedly. Several projects have moved forward, including a Honolulu arts and cultural center built through the PA'I Foundation. The center has been a partnership with Artspace, a Minneapolis-based organization that is Amerca's leader in artist-led community transformation. The center will be a place for Native Hawaiian artists, activists, environmentalists, and educators.

"Artspace is thrilled to partner with PA’I Foundation to create the Ola Ka ‘Ilima Artspace Lofts, which will provide 84 artist live/work lofts, community gathering space and a new home for the PA‘I Native Hawaiian Cultural Center," said Greg Handberg, senior vice president of properties at Artspace. "Vicky's work with us has been instrumental in creating this new place for Native Hawaiian artists."

It was more than a decade ago that Takamine started attending meetings, organizing demonstrations during the legislative session, and speaking out about the importance of Native artwork and culture. She never intended to become an activist, she said, but a family history in politics and her deep love and appreciation of the islands led her to it.

It was that spirit and determination that was celebrated in 2013 during the Community Spirit Award ceremony, hosted in her community in Hawaii. The event was special, Takamine said, because it provided an opportunity for her to celebrate with her peers, community and students.

"To have that in my community was very special," she said.

First Peoples Fund has done an excellent job of highlighting and honoring people who are already recognized in their community as having made a difference, she added.

"First Peoples Fund does a great job of putting these artists forward—and celebrating them—as leaders," she said, and it is even more special that the nominations originate from those communities. "You can have people from the outside say, 'That person is doing a good job.' But when it comes from within your own community, it is even more valuable."

See Takamine and Pua Ali'i 'Ilima perform at the Community Spirit Awards on Saturday, October 18 at The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. Tickets start at just $25 and are available online here.