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Katie Young - April 13, 2001
beloved Hawaiian kupuna Nona Kapuailohia Desha Beamer retired
from her 40-year teaching career at Kamehameha Schools in 1987,
she thought she'd have time to rest. "It's funny,"
she says, "but retirement really hasn't been too retiring."
That's because the 77-year old
Beamer has been busy touring the country performing, judging
hula competitions, giving workshops, authoring books, releasing
new albums and directing theater events. One of her 13 published
works, the second volume of Na Mele Hula, a collection
of Hawaiian hula chants, is due out in stores by summer.
"That's the beauty of working
in the Hawaiian culture," she says, "It's so exciting
Come April 13, Beamer will bring
that beauty to National Public Television as the first hula
master to be featured on NPT's Egg: The Arts Show. Beamer,
the mother of entertainers Kapono and Keola Beamer, also pioneered
other firsts -- the first to perform the ancient hula at Carnegie
Hall in New York City in 1949 and the first to originate a "lu`au
show" in Waikiki.
Shortly after she appeared on
MidWeek's cover in May 1986, Beamer left the bustling
island of Oahu for a more peaceful setting in Puna. Perhaps
her most exceptional endeavor is one that got its start on the
Big Island in the 1950's. Beamer had taken years to painstakingly
write 242 hula types, sub-types and sub-sub-types on butcher
paper that lined her study walls.
Everything was lost in a fire.
For years, Beamer says she didn't want to re-create the information
because it had taken her so long the first time around. But
she changed her mind.
"Some of our greatest kumu
hula have passed away, and many others are very old," she
says. "Sadly, when they're gone, their hula styles go with
them and the knowledge is lost forever."
Working with hanai daughter, Maile
Kapuailohia Beamer Loo, she began the journey to re-create this
information in 1998. They founded the Hula Preservation Society,
a nonprofit group dedicated to documenting the hula. They have
also received financial support from the Folk Arts Program of
the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts for the past two
years as a master and apprentice.
"This time we not only use
pen and paper," Beamer says, "but video, picture and
"I know how much she appreciates
that her and (Helen Desha Beamer's) teachings will live on,"
Beamer has come a long way from
her days as a rebellious teen who was expelled from Kamehameha
Schools in 1935 for dancing hula. She subsequently returned
and graduated with her class in 1941. -- Katie Young