HPS was inspired by the late noted Kumu Hula Nona Kapuailohia Desha Beamer (1923–2008). Auntie Nona was a lifelong teacher, and her innate curiosity led to the founding of the non-profit in 2000.
THIRETEEN YEARS EARLIER, IN 1987, Auntie had settled into a quiet retirement in the ‘ōhi‘a forests of Puna after a nearly 40-year teaching career at the Kamehameha Schools on O‘ahu. Her home, Pulelehua (named for the butterflies she loved), was regularly filled with family and the many friends she’d made throughout her life. In addition to classroom teaching, Auntie led countless workshops and classes for schools, hālau, and arts education groups, and community organizations over many decades.
Auntie Nona retired to the forests of Puna, Hawai‘i Island, built a home, and named it Pulelehua. She believed in the potential of everyone to grow and transform as the pulelehua, or butterfly, does. Whenever Auntie was home from her busy “retirement” schedule, her hae Hawai‘i (Hawaiian flag) flew proudly in the driveway!
Each gathering built new bonds with people from all walks of life who shared her love of Hawai‘i and Hawaiian culture. Being a devout letter writer, she stayed in touch with hundreds of people from around the world, and she offered an open invitation to come visit her in Puna. Many of them did!
One of those people was Maile Loo. A Kamehameha graduate herself, Maile was a student of the Beamer hula style through Kamehameha’s Community Education division in the 1980s. Her teacher, Ke‘ala Brunke, had been connected to the family through hula and music for many years. Auntie Ke‘ala was a kind teacher with a beautiful soprano voice, and a skilled choreographer who partnered with Auntie Nona’s sister-in-law, Myrtle Hopkins Beamer, to create many classics in the Beamer hula repertoire.
When she had to stop teaching, Auntie Ke‘ala asked Maile to help keep the classes going, which the eager young woman readily agreed to and was excited about. Yet, she knew there was still much to learn, so Maile reached out to the ultimate teacher of the family, Auntie Nona. And of course, Auntie said, “Come dear, come!”
That was the beginning of many wonderful years spent together nestled in the ʻōhiʻa forests that surrounded Auntie’s home. In this peaceful and lush environment, the two would “talk shop” for days on end. The primary focus? Hula, of course!
It was in the year 2000, sitting at Auntie’s lauhala-covered dining room table that the idea of HPS was born when Auntie casually said to Maile during one of their long discussions, “I wonder what Uncle George (Naope) knows about that?”
From that point on, the desire to go and talk with other treasured hula masters grew with fervor. Auntie would always refer to the well-known ‘ōlelo noʻeau (wise saying), “ʻAʻohe pau ka ʻike i ka hālau hoʻokahi” which reminds us that not all knowledge rests in one hālau.
Given that Auntie Nona and her peers were well into their 70’s and 80’s by then, the pair knew that if these elder conversations were to happen, they should probably be recorded, as they may never happen again. Maile reached out to videographer friend, Gene Kois, and the rest is history!
Auntie Nona and Gene Kois had a wonderful friendship that grew out of the work of HPS. Here they are at Hā‘ena, Kea‘au, Hawai‘i Island, to document the sharing about her grandmother’s songs inspired by this special place.
With guidance from friends and colleagues, papers for a 501(c)3 were quickly filed, and in record time the organization was formally established as a non-profit. HPS’s official birthdate is July 28, 2000.