Modern version of iconic hula show to debut

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Jan. 19—Related Photo Gallery: New Kilohana Hula Show to be modern version of iconic Kodak Hula Show

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced Thursday the debut of the new Kilohana Hula Show, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 15 at the Tom Moffatt Waikiki Shell.

The free, hourlong show will be a modernized version of the old Kodak Hula Show that aims to return authentic Hawaiian song, dance and culture into the Waikiki venue.

"The Kodak Hula Show ran consecutively for over 60 years," said CNHA CEO Kuhio Lewis. "It was one of the most popular destinations in Waikiki, and we believe that what we're going to present is going to be equally exciting."

The idea to create the new hula show was brought to CNHA by Roy Tokujo, founder of the production "Ulalena," back when the nonprofit had begun searching for ways to steward tourism in the state. The idea was adopted as a way to uplift the Native Hawaiian people and their heritage while also being imaginative, entertaining and befitting of Hawaii as a world-class destination, said Lewis in a written statement.

The incoming show will incorporate performances by kupuna and dancers from six award-winning halau from across the state, in a way that Tokujo said will help bring the authentic culture and history of Hawaii to life.

"In my opinion, the culture and history of Hawaii is embedded in its music and its chants," Tokujo said. "That's what we want to be able to share with the tourists, these great stories of Hawaii and why Hawaii is such a special place."

The Kilohana Hula Show also will be a way to honor the iconic Kodak Show, which was experienced by millions of people as the longest-running hula show in the state before it ended in 2002, said Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association President and CEO Mufi Hannemann, who also serves as the Hawaii Tourism Authority board chair.

"Growing up in a family of entertainers and people in show business, this was something that we would always talk about and have visitors go and see when you're in Waikiki," Hannemann said. "Now it's coming back bigger, better and embracing all the things that we talk about today."

Hannemann referred to the concept of regenerative tourism and explained that concerns from the community have been factored into the show's planning.

Efforts to minimize the impact on the surrounding community will be taken by promoting walkability and the use of public transportation to and from the venue, especially by those who plan to visit from Waikiki hotels.

Other concerns brought up by the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society questioned whether using the park in such a way was permissible, said Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi. However, Blangiardi expressed his confidence in the due diligence taken to review the extensive rules and regulations for such events and said that the show will adhere to them.

In partnership with Native Hawaiian plant specialist and the co-owner of Hui Ku Maoli Ola, Rick Barboza, CNHA also plans to donate more than 500 Native Hawaiian plants to the venue, some of which will include kalo and ulu. CNHA's Pop-Up Makeke is also expected to eventually be featured alongside the show so that those who attend can also have the option to support local businesses while there, Lewis said.

Blangiardi also expressed his hope that the show will breathe new life into the underutilized Waikiki Shell. The sentiment was loosely echoed by Lewis, who recalled stories that would describe Waikiki as a place where one could enjoy Hawaiian music and hula on every block.

"As a Hawaiian organization, part of the kuleana I see with our Kilohana division is to restore that balance to Waikiki," he said. "I'm extremely excited and grateful to be partnering with the City and County of Honolulu to bring some new life, some new energy, some balance, where we can once again be in this space where our kupuna, who may physically not be here, are with us in spirit."

The Kilohana Hula show will be held on Sundays through Thursdays at 9:30 a.m. at the Tom Moffatt Waikiki Shell.


Linsey Dower covers ethnic and cultural affairs and is a corps member of Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues and communities.