Story by Lynn Cook
Photo by Jyoti Mau
In the far corner of an industrial building in Kane‘ohe, lilting music is flowing out of an open door and into the parking lot. Peek inside the door and you’ll see a wall of mirrors reflecting the soft green hues of a hula studio: Hale Pulelehua, opened in 2009 by kumu hula Maile Beamer Loo, with inspiration from her hanai (adoptive) mother, renowned kumu Nona Beamer. The studio is filled with a circle of young women swaying in unison to the music— a common sight in any hälau hula. But what each holds in a sling on her chest is a definite surprise: a tiny baby.
“Step with a lift if you can,” says Loo to the young mothers as she leads them through the dance. “Step flat if it is better for baby. Now, sway.” Hands free, the mothers watch and then try to duplicate Loo’s graceful motions—not an easy task when little fingers are reaching out to grab their moving hands.
Loo’s own daughter, nearly 3, is in the studio dancing on her own. “No wonder,” says Loo. “I taught hula until the last moment before she was born. Then, when she was 10 months old, I was teaching hula again, and I put her on my back so that it left my hands free. She loved it!” Realizing how great hula moves were for both mother and child, Loo decided to start a weekly class she calls Babywearing Hula.
Most of the mothers in today’s class are as new to hula as their babies. But while they may have had only three sessions, mom Marla says that her daughter already seems to remember the movement: “She puts her hands together like we do for the pua, the flower motion.”
Loo designed her Babywearing Hula class to last less than an hour. “The babies really direct what, how much and how fast we do things,” she laughs. “Hula with our babies is really being in the moment.”