with Michael Lum

Patrick Makuakane San Francisco’s Premier Kumu Hula

I first met Patrcik in 1981 when he danced for Robert Cazimero,then saw him and his Halau at the Palace of Fine Arts, in SF in 2001. Now to read about him and all the work he has done for hula. His “hula mua” of  blending old Hawaiian Culture with, Rap and “Todays Music”‘

Please read the inspiring article and if in SF attend their next show. May I share with such pride the following article about a wonderful,true Hawaiian that I am proud to know……….




Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu is a hālau hula, or hula school, based in San Francisco. Led by Director/Kumu Hula Patrick Makuakāne, the hālau features a dance company of 40 performers  and offers dance classes at the beginning and intermediate levels. Founded in 1985, the hālau’s mission is to preserve the Hawaiian culture through hula.

Nā Lei Hulu’s dance company has performed nationally for enthusiastic audiences and received critical acclaim. The company’s home season is held every October in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. What makes the company unique is its trademark style, hula mua. Meaning “hula that evolves,” the style blends traditional movements with non-Hawaiian music like opera, electronic, dance, alternative and pop. The company showcases a mix of hula mua and authentic, traditional pieces in its visually captivating stage productions.

Nā Lei Hulu is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that relies on grants and donations from generous individuals. Please help us keep hula and Hawaiian culture flourishing with a gift of support.

to watch videos of performances…

info on the Halau may be found at

The following  are excerpts as seen  in Hawaiian Airlines Hana Hou! Magazine ………..       

High on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Victorian-style homes hang between the watery horizon and the fogshrouded profile of Mount Diablo. This vertigo-inducing city, celebrated birthplace of counterculture movements, truly is on the edge in every sense. No surprise then that kumu Patrick Makuakane, famed for his campy, consciousness-raising hula showcases, has made this avant-garde spawning ground his home.

An elderly stranger on the sidewalk smiles broadly and points me to Daniel Webster Elementary School, the modest home of Makuakane’s great hula experiment. Inside, I am embraced by students of Makuakane’s halau, Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu, and then by the master himself, who sighs incredulously that the halau is readying for its twenty-fifth anniversary performance in a venue expected to sell out its 6,000 seats. From the easygoing pace of rehearsal, I’d never have guessed such a high-stakes spectacle was near. Makuakane perches on the auditorium stage, laughing and strumming an ‘ukulele. Students have piled their shoes neatly at the door just like in Hawai‘i, but they sport hooded sweatshirts to fend off the notorious SF chill.

Makuakane leans his head languidly to the side and demos the sultry gaze he wants the women dancers to assume in the number “Fever”; he’s set the old Peggy Lee torch song to hula. In the next number, a traditional Hawaiian mele about Mount Ka‘ala, his vibrato chant creates a mood of majesty. “May I ask you not to dance in isolation?” he implores the group at one point, though the dancers look to be impeccably in unison, all the more amazing since they are a motley group of ethnicities, ages and body types, not to mention professions. A banker, an acupuncturist, a fireman, a publishing assistant: We gather after at Makuakane’s apartment and, over Chinese takeout, talk about the halau that gave them all a chance to perform at Lincoln Center.

Late afternoon sunlight slants through the imposing bay window of Makuakane’s apartment as he goes over details for the twenty-fifth anniversary performance. He’ll be reprising numbers from his showcases; he does five of them a year, all halau fundraisers—and the house is always packed, says Makuakane, shaking his head in seeming disbelief at his quarter-century of success in the City by the Bay. “How did this happen here, when so many hula brethren back home are holding sweet-bread sales just to get by?” he asks. “Well, of course, San Francisco just has so many resources,” he answers. It’s more than that, though. Makuakane is a magnet, a consummate aesthete, with an imagination that brings all things Hawaiian alive wherever he stands.

At the moment, that’s right in front of me on the soft white carpet. This is where he invented his trademark style, hula mua, or forward hula, setting hula to pop songs. “It started with me messing around to Terence Trent D’Arby’s ‘Sign Your Name Across My Heart,’” he recalls. Makuakane felt that D’Arby’s tune conveyed King Kamehameha’s love for Queen Ka‘ahumanu just as effectively as any traditional Hawaiian chant, so why not go for it?

The rest is hula mua history. Makuakane’s interpretation of Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was awarded the highly coveted 2009 Izzie Award for best company performance, beating the San Francisco Ballet and other renowned professional troupes for the honor. Even Makuakane sounds stunned about the prize. I ask what was special about the number. Maybe the slow pacing, or perhaps the classic romance of the lyrics, he replies. He mimes the line from the song, “The moon and the stars were the gifts you gave,” and his voice trails off as he moves gracefully.

“So here’s the good thing about hula mua,” he explains. “You are singing a familiar song, and people are immediately engaged, as opposed to seeing only beautiful faces and dresses and hearing great music but having no understanding.” He sees no reason why spectators shouldn’t participate in his shows, and he loves to banter with audience members during performances: “I say let me tell you a little history, and we’ll laugh and talk together.”

Such casualness is in contrast to some of Makuakane’s most famous productions, including the 1998 premiere of The Natives Are Restless. That production included “Salva Mea,” which critics hailed as a masterpiece on a par with Alvin Ailey’s Revelations. The piece decries the suppression of Hawaiian culture by Christian missionaries; in one particularly graphic scene, a priest, played by Makuakane, grabs a female hula dancer by the hair and throws her to the ground, an obvious metaphor for Western assault on native values. The normally easygoing Makuakane says anger drove him to create the piece after he read nineteenth-century missionary journals brimming with contempt for native traditions, especially hula. “I started feeling how many of us Hawaiians are under the muzzle of Christianity and have veered away from our true kanaka maoli past, where spirituality was inseparable from how we lived,” says Makuakane, adding from the lore of hula, “Pele destroys and Hi‘iaka heals, and that’s the cycle of life Hawaiians thought about.”

Makaukane was a young dancer in the Robert Cazimero show at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel when he took leave of Hawai‘i’s burgeoning hula scene and headed to San Francisco State University. He missed hula and vowed to return to Hawai‘i, but fate intervened. He fell in love with a partner and with a city that “embraces diversity, doesn’t just tolerate it.”

In San Francisco Makuakane started his own halau, filled with beautiful Hawaiian women. Performances began piquing interest not only in Hawaiian circles, but in grant-giving organizations. Makuakane laughs that when he received his first award for $10,000, it seemed like so much money that he was of a mind to run away to New Orleans to stage a performance. But moderation kicked in, and he began “climbing the grants ladder,” which led to the start of regular showcases. Even as he innovates, he has an abiding love for classic hula. “These are our heirlooms. I cherish them,” he says. “I pull them out so audiences will understand that this is our foundation.”

There are endless variations on the story told to me by Ryan, a UC Berkeley graduate student whose Samoan grandparents had once dabbled in Hawaiian entertainment. One night at a San Francisco arts festival, he heard the pumping bass of house music. Makuakane’s kane, outfitted in street clothes and raffia skirts, were onstage performing hula moves with break-dance attitude. “My jaw just dropped,” recalls Ryan. “My friend said, ‘You can do that.’ And so I signed up for class.”

A BIG MAHALO to you PATRICK ! You make Hawaiians proud. The one’s still on the Island and us transplants……….


2 Responses to “Patrick Makuakane San Francisco’s Premier Kumu Hula”

  1. To not see Patrick Makuakane perform is to miss out on a cultural treasure. If anyone wants to get a vibe about what Hawaii and being Hawaiian is all about – then Patrick Makuakane can easily fill that void with pure Aloha and a wealth of Hawaiian cultural knowledge. Patrick is a ‘Must See’ among the wonderful pleasures there are on earth. You will remember one of his performances the rest of your life – and how many things can you say that about now? Go see Patrick Makuakane perform.

  2. Message to Patrick: please bring back Olomana/Jerry Santos to SF. We loved last year’s concert and will bring many friends!

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