Husband and wife ‘Iliahi and Haunani Paredes said they demand hard work, dedication and sacrifice as kumu hula of the award-winning Hālau Kekuaokalā‘au‘ala‘iliahi. The couple formed the hālau in October 2004 with the mission to preserve and perpetuate the “beautiful art form of hula.” Haunani Paredes adds: “The hula touches all aspects of the Hawai‘i culture, and through the hula, we promote other facets of our complex culture like the language, chant, history and crafts.” The hālau has 200 members who range in age from three to 70 and older.
In its seven years, the hālau has performed on Maui, on O‘ahu, on the East Coast and at international venues. Dancers have competed and won numerous awards at prestigious events including its first hula competition in 2005 at the Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel’s Hula O Nā Keiki Competition on Maui and the Merrie Monarch Festival on the Big Island. ‘Iliahi Paredes said he and his wife stress that “the greatest victory is for us to see our students blossom before our eyes. To know that hula has made our students better people in the community makes the hard work and sacrifice worth it.” Besides competitions and festivals, the hālau has entertained at local nonprofit fundraisers, the Maui Ag Festival and the Hawaiian Civic Club’s Holokū Ball.
The Paredes say hula touches people’s soul and hālau participation is not limited to race, age or gender. The couple also readily admits that it isn’t easy to be a member of their hālau. “Only the strong survive,” ‘Iliahi said, adding that hula takes a back seat to a performer’s education. Students failing in school are not allowed to participate in hula classes or events. “Our hope is that hula can coexist harmoniously with family, work, and school,” Haunani said. “We tell parents that we support positive educational decisions for their children, and if we can assist in any way, we will help,” ‘Iliahi adds.