San Francisco-Based Hula Master's Choreography and Chanting Featured in New Katy Perry Music Video

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The new animated video for pop superstar Katy Perry’s song “Harleys in Hawaii” features choreography and chanting by Patrick Makuakāne, Kumu Hula and Artistic Director of the San Francisco-based Hawaiian dance company, Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu (“the many feathered wreaths at the summit, held in high esteem”). The video has already been viewed well over one million times on YouTube: https://youtu.be/aYjHOf6-SmM.

“One of my favorite surprises was waking up to my phone sending me a message saying, ‘Katy Perry tagged you on Instagram.’ That was the best birthday morning alarm ever!”

The new animated video for pop superstar Katy Perry’s song “Harleys in Hawaii” features choreography and chanting by Patrick Makuakāne.

Kumu Hula and Artistic Director of the San Francisco-based Hawaiian dance company, Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu (“the many feathered wreaths at the summit, held in high esteem”). The video has already been viewed well over one million times on YouTube: https://youtu.be/aYjHOf6-SmM.

The video was directed by Adam Bolt and Hoku Uchiyama; Uchiyama’s mother is Berkeley based Kumu Hula Māhealani Uchiyama, who also advised on the project. “The directors wanted to pitch an idea to Katy Perry, animating her song mimicking the original black-and-white Betty Boop cartoons as inspiration” said Makuakāne. “Hoku wanted to focus the video from a local Hawaiian perspective, instead of the normal tourist tropes of a hyper-sexualized hula dancer, grass skirt submissiveness, contrived tropical fantasies, laid-back, happy-go-lucky locals with no care in the world, mai tais, fake flower leis and made-to-look-authentic luaus.”

Makuakāne added, “Most music videos use Hawaiˋi as merely background, without a thought given to native culture representation. The purposeful intention of this video was to highlight beloved aspects truly representative of the host culture. While riding a Harley in Hawai’i, we pay homage to King Kamehameha, passing by his statue on the highway. We see someone receiving a traditional kākau (Hawaiian tattoo), which was actually created upon consultation with one of Hawai’i’s most renowned tattoo artists, Keone Nunes. Finally, Katy and the main characters end their journey by joining in the dance with a hālau hula (hula school), executing authentic traditional dance sequences.”

In creating the choreography, Makuakāne said, “I wanted the hula lamp girl to implement moves that were the antithesis of the expected ‘vapid hand waving from side to side,’ the simplistic, default movement Hollywood portrays as hula. Not our hula lamp girl! She leaps defiantly off her pedestal and enacts a primal, bombastic slapping motif, hitting her thighs and chest with applied force. Many people will recognize that move from a recent popular hula, danced in solidarity with those committed to protecting Maunakea.

To demonstrate the choreography to the video’s animators, Makuakāne taught the steps to Kaila DeFries, one of the members of Nā Lei Hulu’s performing company, and then shared them via a video call. “Most of the movement follows the X-Y/ side-to-side axis, which is easier for animators to illustrate,” Makuakāne explained. “Much of the movement I took directly from our repertoire of traditional dances (hula kahiko). The movements are repetitive because they reflect the typical nature attributed to older dances.”

Makuakāne says he loves the finished project, which was released on his birthday: “One of my favorite surprises was waking up to my phone sending me a message saying, ‘Katy Perry tagged you on Instagram.’ That was the best birthday morning alarm ever!”

He went on to compliment the directors, who have made several music videos: “Hoku worked diligently to ensure the native aspects were authentic. He consistently kept me in the loop, showing me every finished scene and asking for my approval. It was a fantastic collaboration every step of the way.”

“I’ll be ready should Beyoncé come calling,” said Makuakāne with a sly smile.

Currently, Makuakāne is working to create Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu’s first-ever online presentation, “The Hula Must Go On,” which will stream online on October 17, 2020. This is Nā Lei Hulu’s 35th Anniversary season. More information is at https://naleihulu.org/.

ABOUT PATRICK MAKUAKĀNE:
Patrick Makuakāne, Founder and Director of the Hawaiian dance company Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu, is a creative force in the hula world, known for innovative choreography and groundbreaking theatrical performances. Originally from Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, Mr. Makuakāne studied intensively with two of Hawaiʻi’s most revered hula masters: Robert Uluwehi Cazimero and Mae Kamāmalu Klein. In 2003, under the tutelage of Mrs. Klein, he graduated as a Kumu Hula, or traditional master of dance, in the ritual ceremony known as ʻailolo ʻūniki; in 2013 he received a kīhei (symbol of honor) from Mr. Cazimero. In recognition of his cultural and artistic impact, Mr. Makuakāne has received, among other honors, the Dance/USA Fellows Award in 2019, The San Francisco Arts Commission 2018 Legacy Award; numerous Isadora Duncan Dance Awards, culminating in a Sustained Achievement Award in 2016; the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation Artist Fellowship in 2014; and a Choreographer Commissioning Award from the Hewlett and Gerbode Foundations in 2012. He was honored with the Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2006 San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. He serves as the spiritual advisor and Kumu Hula for the Native Hawaiian Religious Spiritual Group at San Quentin State Prison. In passing down the customs of his own hula lineage, Mr. Makuakāne is helping to preserve a dynamic cultural heritage; in experimenting with music, dance, and multimedia, he is crisscrossing between native tradition and artistic evolution. The surprising result is the subject of the award-winning book, The Natives Are Restless: A San Francisco Dance Master Takes Hula into the Twenty-first Century.

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