Afro-Peruvian music and dance is a unique blend of African, Spanish, and Indigenous elements. During this special assembly organized by mentor artist Carmen Román at Sonoma Mountain Elementary School, master performers Pierre Padilla Vasquez, Pedro Rosales, Amelia Uzategui Bonilla, David Pinto, and Juan Medrano Cotito shared their expertise in Afro-Peruvian song and dance with students of all ages. Continuing with workshops throughout the day, students got hands-on experience learning about traditional Afro-Peruvian history and culture with dances such as the Festejo, Zamacueca, and Son De Los Diablos. Through movement and music led by the artists, students were exposed to the rich traditions of another culture.
Hula made a return to Sonoma Mountain School in the Fall and we had a blast!
We began our 12 week Hawaiian Dance, Music and Storytelling with a very sweet sense of familiarity from the students. As we began to dance, their movements and steps all came back and took on a more solidified understanding and knowing of Hula. From grades 1-6, the kids easily slipped back into moving and connecting their motions and steps which allowed us to enjoy moving together and working on synchronizing our motions and steps. The school Hula that I chose is from the movie Moana, entitled, We Know The Way. The song’s lyrics speak about the ancient Polynesian Wayfinding principals and practices, and embrace the cultural teaching of, “Know who you are and where you come from, in order to know where you’re going on your Life Journey”. The movie’s main character is a girl who finds her inner strength and courage through the teachings of her family and culture. This is a powerful message that I wanted to share with the kids via dancing Hula and with their work in learning the choreography and our sharing of cultural stories, I believe it was instilled in them. In our Hawaiian Culture, we have a practice called, Anoano, meaning, planting of the seeds. Basically, we plant seeds of positive thoughts and ways of being in the world that aligns to a Higher Good, as we learn our different daily cultural practices, one of them being Hula and Storytelling.
For the youngest/newest students in grades TK & K, I did storytelling that entailed a Hula as well, and used props such as costumes, Hula instruments, and easy Hawaiian language words. Young minds are SO amazing! The kids seemed to absorb the stories, names of characters (even with Hawaiian names and words!) and teachings so easily! They would remember the names weeks after I told a story!
Our school assembly finale was amazing! We ended the 12 weeks with a culminating performance of all grades, sharing what they learned with each other and many parents in attendance as well. We began with the TK/K & 1st graders doing their Hula on the stage, which they LOVED dancing on! Then the 2nd & 3rd grades performed their Hula that they learned together, followed by the 4th graders, who danced with short Kala’au or hula sticks as they chanted along with their dance. The 5th and 6th graders really worked hard on learning their Maori Poi Ball and Haka routine, a new combo than last year, and their hard work showed! there were 52 girls doing the Maori Poi Balls and about 30 boys doing the Haka. It was a powerful and beautiful performance from them. We finished the performance with the whole school dancing to the Moana song, We Know The Way. That was about 450 students dancing all together! Such a fabulous sight to experience! Many parents came up to me afterwards to thank me for teaching their child and that was such a wonderful gift for me.
Sonoma Mountain School rocks! Mahalo to the Staff and especially to Michele Gochberg for bringing me back. It was such an honor.
Me ke aloha,
Artist In Residence
Hula artist, Shawna Alapa’i and her troupe of dancers put on a beautiful evening performance at Sonoma Mountain Elementary in Petaluma. This marks Shawna’s second year at Sonoma Mountain, and it was wonderful to see the school community come out on a chilly Friday to support her. Shawna sang and told Hawaiian folktales, as her dancers performed several traditional Hula dances. She wowed the crowd with her demonstration of the Poi Ball dance, which she shared she used to do with the balls lit on fire! The event concluded with the students doing a impromptu performance of their “Moana Dance” for their proud parents. Thank you Shawna for a lovely evening!
In February students hit the ground and took off with Hula and Teaching Artist Shawna Alapai returning for a second time to every classroom at Sonoma Mountain Elementary School.
It was wonderful to see many familiar (but more mature) faces, and as we started dancing, I could see and feel the familiarity coming through in the steps and movements of the kids. We’ve been very busy learning some Hawaiian language words, meanings, history, myths and cultural practices along with the dances. I love to have the kids sing along while they dance and they’re really using their voices to help express their Hula!
We’re delving into a variety of dance styles this year, with an ancient chant (danced with canoe paddles) that tells the story of the migration on double hulled canoes from Tahiti to Hawai’i…anyone see Moana??? Then, we’re exploring a bit of the Maori culture as we learn a Hula Noho, or sitting dance to the song Hoe Ana. I’ve incorporated the kala’au or hula sticks into this Hula and the kids really like using them to keep rhythm and express their motions at the same time. The 6th graders have really stepped their Hula up a few notches, as they learn a Maori Haka and Poi Ball piece.
My Accompanist, Stephanie Behasa, made 35 sets of Maori Poi Balls for the girls to use. At first they were a bit intimidated, thinking it was too difficult, but I assured them that all they had to do was practice. Well, guess what? They’ve got it! It was such a delight to see their eyes light up when they achieved the routine, and to feel their absolute enthusiasm as we continue to progress in the style. The power of a Maori Haka is so infectious, that I decided to share that piece with all grades, K-6, and it’s a HIT! They all can’t wait to run through it when we’re working together and when their teachers come in, the surprise on their faces as their students put their all into the dance, is priceless.
Sonoma Mountain School is rockin’ it out of the Multi Purpose Room every week, and when we do our school performance on April 28th, the hills surrounding the school will be vibrating to the tunes of Hawaii and Aotearoa (New Zealand)!
Spring is bouncing into summer and hundreds of young artists around the North Bay are finishing class projects and creating exhibits, performances and other artful events for family and friends with Youth in Arts.
Recent posts have highlighted Spring projects by K-Dub Williams’ students at Marina Middle School and Angela Baker’s students at Harding Elementary, in addition to the amazing work created by Suzanne Joyal’s kindergarteners at Loma Verde as part of the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program. Youth in Arts also produced a special “Passport Art Event” at Harding, and Nydia Gonzalez and Shawna Alapa’i concluding performing arts residencies at Ocean View Elementary in Albany and Sonoma Mountain Elementary.
In late May, Arts Unite Us “collaborative residency” projects at Harding and at Tam High School in Mill Valley wrapped up with terrific performances by all the students. Collaborative residencies bring together special education and general education students for shared arts experiences. At Harding, students wrote, directed and performed an original play “Lydia and the Land of Gee-Jo” around themes of Pollution, Bullying, Self Acceptance, New Beauty Standards and Taking Care of Each Other. At Tam High , the original pilot site for the collaborative residency program, students from the Special Day Class and advanced Conservatory Theatre Ensemble worked with Mentor Artists Suraya Keating and Melissa Briggs to write and perform their original play, “By my Side,” which opened the school’s popular One Acts Festival.
Tommy Shepherd’s students at Wade Thomas put an exclamation mark on their rap and beatboxing residency with a performance of their original rap for their peers at school, and Kaitlin McGaw’s kindergarteners at Bahia Vista will soon perform a vocal music and hip hop show for their fourth grade buddies.
At Laurel Dell in San Rafael, Djenane Saint-Juste has been teaching students Caribbean dance around the theme of Kanaval (Carnivale), using costume pieces the students created this Fall with visual artist Gabby Gamboa. The students will perform in a grand parade with family and friends at the school’s big Fiesta del Sol event this weekend. And at Mary Silveira, Mentor Artist Julia James finished a successful year with a big art show featuring work by all her K-4 students in the program.
Youth in Arts award-winning `Til Dawn a cappella ensemble performed their annual Spring Concert at San
Domenico Hall of the Arts this past weekend–a big congratulations to all the performers for a wonderful show and a special shout out to our graduating seniors. We will miss you!
Also at San Domenico, Youth in Arts workshopped a new performance of “Goodnight Gorilla” on May 23 with music by Dee Spencer performed by a terrific band of Bay Area music educators and musicians who are working with us to develop the work into an educational performance piece for youth jazz bands.
You can see it’s been a very busy Spring, full of fabulous art and fabulous young artists. Watch this blog for more detailed reports on many of these projects in the weeks ahead and get ready to celebrate summer with Youth in Arts! Come see `Til Dawn at Youth in Arts night with the Pacifics, visit our Everything Under the Sun YIA Gallery exhibit, sign up for a unique summer camp program, check out the Mountain Play and benefit Youth in Arts with your ticket purchase, or join us for our gala Summer Solstice celebration at Studio 333 on June 21. We’d love to see you in person and share our work with you. Happy summer!
Aloha from Sonoma Mountain Elementary School in Petaluma!
This is the first time that the school has brought Hawaiian Cultural Arts to their students and we’re having a BLAST! I’m working with Keiki (children) in the Kindergarten, First and Second grade classes and despite the age differences, they’re all really moving with intention and joy as I teach them a few Hula’s that incorporate using their voices in chanting, playing a Hawaiian musical instrument and dancing.
It’s no secret that every student’s favorite Hula is a song from the movie blockbuster, Lilo and Stitch. The Mele (song) and Hula (dance) tells a story of Hawai’is last King, David La’amea Kamanakaupu’u Kauliluaikeanu Mahinulani Nalo’ia’ehuokalani Lumialani Kalakaua…the kids ask me to say his full name at least once a week, and I love seeing their eyes get huge and light up when I do. The title of the song for King Kalakaua is He Mele Inoa No Lilo. So many of the kids went home after our first day of lessons and watched the Lilo and Stitch movie and told me that when the song came on, they jumped up and danced what they had learned. How great is that?!
They now tell me that they practice it at home “all the time” and they even dance it for their family and friends.
That just made my heart smile! The Hawaiian Culture lives on, in the homes of Petaluma, and in the hearts of many. At this point, we’re nearing the end of our 10 week program, which culminates with a school performance on May 2nd. The kids are getting really excited, and in all the classes yesterday I could see and feel a definite focus and effort being put into their dances and chants. The steps that they’ve learned, a koholo, ‘ami and ku’i are vibrant and more precise, and their instrument playing is really getting into synch! They’ve learned to play the ipu (a gourd drum), kala’au (rhythmic sticks made from guava wood), ‘ili’ili (smooth ocean rocks) and the ‘ukulele. It’s a short time frame to teach a whole song on the ‘ukulele to total beginners, but they’re hanging in there and we actually made it happen yesterday! I’m totally enjoying my time with the keiki and at the school.
At the beginning and end of each class every week, there’s always a handful of kids that run up to greet me with a hug or to say goodbye with a hug…without knowing it, they’re perpetuating a Hawaiian Cultural practice that has been a part of our way of life for hundreds of years. It’s the sharing of Aloha. To witness and experience this through the teachings of this Hawaiian Music and Dance program, is what it’s all about for me as a Kumu Hula, or Hula Teacher because I know that my culture’s values and teachings have made an imprint on these keiki’s lives. I am filled with gratitude for Youth In Arts and Sonoma Mountain Elementary for this opportunity! Mahalo a nui loa…profoundly grateful and deeply touched.
Aloha, Kumu Hula Shawna Alapa’i