Halau Na Wainohia
Since he was a youngster, music and performance influenced many aspects of Tony Conjugacion’s life. From humble beginnings living in Palama, O`ahu, Tony worked hard at honing his skills in the performing arts. As an adult, he earned recognition as an award-winning recording artist, composer, television personality, stage actor (Miss Saigon-New York), producer, direct, and (last, but not least) Kumu Hula. Although Tony taught hula in Hawai`i and abroad for more than twenty years, he waited until 1997 to establish his own: Halau Na Wainohia in Honolulu. Since the inception of his h*lau, Tony has groomed seven `Olapa dancers, culminating with their 1uniki at Kipu Kai, Kaua`i in 2004. He then graduated four Kumu Hula and one `Olapa dancer at Keawanui Moloka`i in 2010. The halau is growing: Kumu added keiki classes and a new kane class for young men in 2011.
Kumu founded the Lamaku Society in 2008 and currently serves as its executive director. This non-profit (501.c.3) organization is dedicated to the education, promotion and preservation of the Hawaiian culture with an emphasis on the performing arts. With its 2009 CD release of a hula compilation entitled `Ike O Na Kumu Hula (Insights of the Hula Sources) Lamaku Society and Kumu Tony garnered the highest distinction, winning “Compilation of the Year” at the 2010 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards ceremony.
With a priority focus to perpetuating hula within the halau, throughout the local community and around the world, Kumu also continues to promote his passion for traditional Hawaiian music by performing, locally, and Disney’s `Aulani Resort - an endeavor which began in August 2011. As the momentum builds, the future presents promising and exciting anticipation for Kumu as he sets a renewed focus on reviving appreciation for vocal stylings that are associated with Hawaiian music. His goal is to produce a performance event, sponsored by the Lamaku Society, which will feature talented vocalists in the local community.
Halau Na Waiolaokane
Those familiar with Raymond Alejo know him as “Pono”. It is a fitting name for someone who looks at his life choices and considers what is appropriate and right. Pono is the seventh of eight children born to Lucina Alejo of Nanakuli and Anacleto Alejo of Laoag, Philippines. He grew up in Pearl City, Oahu and is a 1978 alumnus of Damien High School. Pono moved to Seattle, Washington where he studied to become a Registered Nurse and licensed Massage Therapist. As a nurse, he specialized in caring for patients with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. He also tended to burn victims in the acute and rehabilitation phases of care. In Washington, Pono danced hula with Kumu Iwalani Christian until he moved back to Hawaii in 1998.
Upon his return, Pono continued his hula studies with Halau Na Wainohia, earning Olapa status as part of an uniki at Kipu Kai, Kauai, on September 26, 2004. Nearly six years later, on September 18, 2010, Pono was one of four students from Halau Na Wainohia to uniki at Keawanui, Molokai as Kumu Hula. Kumu Hula Tony Conjugacion gifted Pono with the name of his own school of hula: Halau Na Waiolaokane. Pono now teachers hula in Wahiawa, Oahu.
Twice, in 2014, Halau Na Wailaokane traveled abroad to perform at two international events: The Global Village of the Pasifika Festival in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and the 20th Internation AIDS Conference in Melbourne Australia. These performance opportunities were invaluable to Pono because it allowed him to teach his haumana the same inspiration, confidence and love that Kumu Tony gifted him during his training as Kumu Hula.
Presently, Pono works as a community health nurse, caring for 700 clients living with HIV and (or) AIDS. He is the kahu of his family and cares for his mother as well. The philosophy, lifestyle, love, compassion and energy of hula are embedded in every aspect of Pono’s life. It is a vital force in providing healthcare and well-being to the ones he cares and loves.
Halau Na Waihanauahina
“If you let it, hula can take you places you never dramed you’d go; challenge you in ways you never thought possible; and reveal things about yourself that you didn’t know existed. Hula may seem difficult at times and being part of a Halau isn’t always easy…but the friendships you make and experiences you gain, make it all worthwhile.”
This sentiment, from Kumu Hula Alison Tonaki, strikes a reverberating tone to the call that many hula dances hear an feel. Hula is all-encompassing and for Alison, it became a significant influence in her life when she started dancing at Palama Settlement in 1993, under the tutelage of Kumu Hula Tony Conjugacion. Upon her graduation form Punahou School in 1997, Kumu Tony bestowed to Alison, a graduation gift which enchanted her Hawaiian middle name: Kaiponoheainamakaokalani.
Ipo became a charter member of Halau Na Wainohia, when she followed Kumu Tony to his own halau in 1997. She pursued a degree in Psychology with a minor in Music, graduation from University of Hawaii at Manoa, in 2002. Two years later, Ipo added to her accomplishments by earning Olapa status in 2004 at Kipu Kai Kauai, culminating with an uniki graduation as Kumu Hula in 2010 at Keawanui, Molokai. Along with her Kumu Hula designation, Ipo received another grift from Kumu Tony - this time, it was the name of her own hula school: Halau Na WaihanauoHina.
To further her skills and to also apply her learned experiences from Kumu Tony, Ipo agreed to meet a call for assistance by serving as Co-Creative Director of Halau Na Wainohia’s fundraising concert, Kamau Pono. In addition to her administrative management, Ipo’s choreographic inspiration helped to highlight a successful and memorable program for the halau.
Ipo’s interests are quite diverse—from training in Aikido and attaining a Black Belt status, to delving into the instrumental side of music as a pianist—but, that’s “just for fun”, she claims. Ipo enjoys working at Barnes & Noble, at the Ala Moana Shopping Center, as its Community Relations Manger. For the next few years, she has returned to the University of Hawaii to pursue additional studies in Business.
Halau Na Waioluokalani
At Halau Na Wainohia gatherings, it is easy to notice a petite and demure presence who, like a mother hen, spreads her wings to embrace her students or lingers around the food table at a potluck to insure that everyone has enough to eat. The most attractive aspects of Eunice Kaleo Ishiki-Kalahele are her skills as a Kumu Hula to impress a sense of pride in the halau’s students. Although gentle in her ways, Kaleo’s passion for hula and the Hawaiian culture speaks loudly and in volumes.
Kaleo’s ties to family are also strong. She is a third generation Okinawa, whose grandparents immigrated to Hawai`i to work on the plantations. The ethnicity of her family expanded to a solid Hawaiian base when she married Imaikalani Kalahele, a noted poet and artist in the Hawaiian community. Together, Kaleo and Imai have four children and fourteen grandchildren. Once a week, a few grandchildren gather during “Ohana Night”. Her 3 older grandons enjoy ukulele lessons, while Kaleo shares hula with 4 granddaughters (ages 7-10).
As a baby, Eunice received her first name from her father. She received the name “Michino” from her mother, who explained that the kanji character for “mi” generally means beauty - but in her daughter’s case, it meant inner beauty. The Kanji character for “chi” refers to wisdom. So, from an early start, this young child understood that her path would be one of grace.
Kumu Tony gifted Eunice with her Hawaiian name, Kaleonahenaheikala. The translation of this name refers to a sweet voice, which comes from the (rising) sun. Reference to the sun acknowledged her ancestry…and the work Kaleo, the voice, touched on a strength and inner quality which (she admins) she did not understand nor feel in the beginning.
It was Kumu Tony’s voice, which first attracted Kaleo to study with him. With time, the depth and breadth of his knowledge, as well as his spiritual connection to his heritage and culture, revealed itself. Through his guidance and teaching, Kaleo found her own voice and developed a greater sense of self and place. She attained goals she never imagined she could aspire to reach. With the merging of two very spiritual cultures int he Okinawan and Hawaiian realm, it is no wonder that Kaleo has a core essence that serves our halau well.
Halau Na Wailuaopapahanaumoku
Hawaii is often considered a “melting pot” of nationalities and ethnicities. The intrigue and call of the islands are often alluring to those who observe it from afar. For some, they are touched with a deep need to seek a source of cultural, historical and spiritual enlightenment. To Yurena Namahana Melian Fuller, the call began when she was a young adult. It continues to offer her sustenance for her life ambitions and accomplishments.
As a child, Namahana as raised in the Canary Islands, Spain- the daughter of Elizabeth Kamuela Fuller of Oahu and Chago Melian of Tenerife. By the young age of two, her life’s path was firmly rooter int he performing arts, which included signing, dancing and acting. Most youngsters would be satisfied with just one dimension of performing skills, but young Yurena saw no barriers to learning dance from many cultures and disciplines - Classical ballet, Tahitian, Philippine folk dancing, Jazz, Contemporary & Funk - to name a few. Vocally, Namahana sand professionally for more than 10 years as a member of Contratiempo (a rock fusion band) which later evolved to an acoustic group, known as Comanmisijos, which featured latin, jazz rock and reggae music.
Her special connection to Hawai`i inspired Namahana to conceptualize, produce, and direct her own Polynesian Ballet. But that was not enough. She moved to Oahu in 1996 to dance hula and “surf the waves”. Namahana began her formal hula studies by joining Halau Na Wainohia. Her love for dance allowed her to blossom under the direction of Kumu Hula Tony Conjugacion. With Kumu, she was able to perform locally, on the neighbor islands and also in Japan. She served as Kumu’s alakai at hula workshops in Honolulu as well as Nagoya and Sapporo Japan. Upon her uniki on Molokai, Namahana received the name of her own school of hula: Halau Na Wailuaopapahanaumoku. Presently, she serves as Kumu Hula for St. Andrews Priory extra-curricular programs teaching more than 350 students from Grades K-12.
Namahana’s love for hula is best articulated with this sentiment: “It is best to let hula flow with you…to appreciate and respect it…to honor it as having a deep and spiritual bond with nature and history. Hula goes beyond our senses and gives strength and serenity to those of us who trust in its unique expression.” In 2012 Namahana was offered the position of Kumu Hula at St. Andrew’s Priory, sharing cultural awareness and dance to students in many grade levels. She was also instrumental in reviving the Hui Hauoli Club (after a 7-year hiatus) where high school and middle school students represent The Priory with hula and oli at different events, ceremonies and community activities.
One of her ambitions is to take hula (with the spirit of Aloha) back to the Canary Islands so that the Canarian people and those around the world will grow to share a bond of pride and love of their own land, of the culture and of themselves. Returning tot he land of her youth will allow Namahana the distinction of being the first Kumu Hula in the Canary Islands…an affirmation to the global influence that can begin with just one student, and one halau.