Hula Finds a Home in Arlington

by KRISTEN ARMSTRONG, Staff Writer      

(Wednesday, April 11, 2007 5:23 AM EDT)

You don't have to fly across the Pacific to get a taste of Hawaii. Halau O'Aulani, a local hula school, offers Arlington residents the chance to experience the island's cultural traditions right here at home.

Halau O'Aulani was founded in 1996 and has received sponsorship from the Arlington County government's Cultural Affairs Division for about four years. The county allows the school to practice and teach in a space on South Four Mile Run Drive.

“The county provides the facility,” said Halau O'Aulani founder Ku'ulei Stockman. “In return, we share the ‘aloha spirit' around Arlington.”

Halau O'Aulani brings “kuma hula” (hula instructor) Keith Kalanikau Awai from Hawaii to give workshops and performances several times a year.

“We need to keep the culture pure,” Stockman said. “We're so detached [from Hawaii]. Without someone like Keith, the culture would thin out.”

Awai has practiced hula for more than 30 years. He owns his own hula school, Kawaipuilani, and also is the artist and repertoire manager and associate artistic director at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii.

“I think all of us want to be rooted,” Awai said. “Music and dance are such an easy venue - that's why hula is so important. It opens the mind to culture and tradition.”

Awai takes his role as teacher very seriously. “Kuma” in “kuma hula,” not only means “teacher,” but also “trunk of a tree,” and Awai believes strongly in living the metaphor.

“I am the trunk, and the branches and leaves are my students. I determine how nourished they are,” he said. “[Being kuma hula] is not my job, it's my responsibility.”

On his most recent trip to Arlington in late March, Awai taught students of Halau O'Aulani and also led a workshop for the public. He will return in June to perform in a show entitled “Evolution of Hawaiian Music and Hula.”

The most important thing Awai said he wants the people of Arlington to learn from Halau O'Aulani and his workshops is the concept of “aloha,” and to find balance, reach calmness and take things as they come.

“I want to rejuvenate them in their life,” he said.

For more information on Halau O'Aulani and upcoming events, visit the Web site at, or e-mail

Kuma Hula Keith Awai travels from Hawaii and spends time with students in Arlington a number of times each year.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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