Hula, Haka and huli huli: annual Luau unites the LC community

Photo by Madeleine Bentley

By Natalie Rich /// Senior Staff Writer

FOR ONE NIGHT, Lewis & Clark’s Pamplin Sports Center transformed from a regular gym to an enchanting lu’au. Students streamed into the gym and were welcomed by a row of decorated tables and Hawai’ian food. During the performance, students and staff performed traditional dances for the student body and many non-LC members of the Portland community, all of whom dined on traditional Hawai’ian fare catered by Bon Appetit.

For over twenty years, the LC Hawai’i Club has held a lu’au, to celebrate Hawai’ian and Pacific Islander culture. Last Saturday, April 2, was no exception. After planning and practicing all year, the fruits of the Hawai’i Club’s labor were born.

Kian Lutu ’16 the president of the Hawai’i Club, spoke to the history of the Lu’au at LC.

“In the ‘80s and ‘90s there was a big wave of Hawai’i students, and Pacific students,” Lutu said. “We were that school, the ‘Pacific’ of the Northwest. We kept the tradition going, and it just became an annual thing.”

The Hawai’i Club, comprised of about 12 permanent students, starts planning for the Lu’au, which is their main event of the year, at the beginning of the fall semester. They advertise at the Pio Fair and reach out to friends to find performers and dancers. This year happened to feature 60 performers, including the LC Fire Arts Club, who performed an impressive set of fire dances, as well as several members of the faculty, who performed the “Green Rose” Hula. Leis were draped over the tables, and lyrics to the song “Hawaii Aloha” by Lorenzo Lyons were given to students. The beautiful costumes worn by the dancers were largely purchased, but some of the pieces, like the more complex headdresses used in the opening number, were made by students.

The performance, which started at 7 p.m., opened with a student running through the audience, blowing a conch shell. Then, in addition to the Fire Arts and hula performance, the audience was treated to a Tahitian Tutuki dance, which involved some audience interaction, and a lovely and serene Blossom Nani Ho’i E dance, which celebrated a blossoming flower, both performed by female LC students. The Noho Paipai, performed by all men, and Pua Hinano, which was couples, celebrated a sweet love story. In the Haka, 18 male students performed an energetic war dance celebrating the preparation before battle. Finally, the seniors in the Hawai’i Club danced the Maunaleo to round out the performance.

Many of the dances this year were taught by freshmen, including Chrislyn DeMattos ’19 and Kassie Kometani ’19. They said that they had been approached by the Hawai’i Club, since they’d been dancing since they were very young, and were thus familiar with the dances that the club wanted to put on.

“We also want to help perpetuate the culture, and most Hawai’ians learn the dances very young,” Kometani said.

As far as rehearsing, it varied depending on the dance. Michael Machado ’19, who performed in the Haka, commented on the increased preparations as the performance neared.

“We rehearsed more towards the end, closer to the lu’au,” Machado said. “We just went bit by bit, I didn’t know the dance, so it was a whole new thing. It was awesome though because everyone in the Haka was on the football team, so it was great to bond and get closer outside of football.”

The food that Bon Appetit served included Hawaiian sweet rolls, Hawaiian macaroni salad, fried rice, sweet potatoes, huli huli tofu, shoyu chicken, and kalua pork. Dessert was blondie brownies and sliced pineapple. Fields Dining Hall was closed during the lu’au, so the only place for students to get dinner on campus was at the lu’au.

“They [Bon Appetit] try their best,” Lutu said jokingly.

In addition to the performances and Bon Appetit dinner, an array of activities were offered. Shaved ice was sold, and tables were set up in the back offering arts and crafts and a raffle. In addition, the Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines held a table, selling t-shirts and handing out information about their group.

Overall, the lu’au this year was largely considered a success.

“It was way bigger than last year, so hopefully it keeps getting bigger as the years go on,” Machado said.

After the lu’au, students were overheard giving the lu’au much praise, commenting on how interesting it was, and how talented the dancers were. Many students had friends who were performers, so the lu’au served as a fun social event where students could see their friends in a new light.

Photo by Madeleine Bentley
Photo by Madeleine Bentley
Photo by Madeleine Bentley
Photo by Madeleine Bentley
Photo by Madeleine Bentley
Photo by Madeleine Bentley

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