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E Pili Kakou celebrates 13-year anniversary

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Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2011 11:30 pm

LIHU‘E — The 13th Annual E Pili Kakou I Ho‘okahi Lahui Hula Retreat (“Let’s get together as one body of people”) kicks off today and runs through Sunday at the Kaua‘i Beach Resort in Lihu‘e. The three-day retreat features workshops with 15 kumu, question-and-answer periods and nightly performances. Registration is $100 for a single day or $175 for two days.

The retreat was founded by Kumu Hula Blaine Kia, who was inspired by three of his kumu to share their passion and knowledge of hula. Those kumu are Darrell Lupenui, Frank Hewett and the late John Kaimikaua.

“All my teachings are based on these three gentlemen,” Kia said.

In 1983, under the command of Lupenui, Kia and his halau traveled to Kaua‘i for a hula exchange.

“Kaua‘i was his favorite island,” Kia said. “It was one of the most profound experiences I ever had learning from another teacher. The reason why he did that is because he wanted to start a foundation to have hula exchanges.”

In 1997, Kia started the first E Pili Kakou I Ho‘okahi Lahui Hula Retreat to carry on Lupenui’s vision. It attracted 150 attendees.

“Just to get the kumu hula to work together was an issue,” Kia said. “Hula was inadvertently territorial. The idea was quite new for most of the kumu to approach.”

In the end, Kia was successful brining nine kumu together to join as one body.

“At the end of the weekend, it was emotionally and spiritually satisfying,” Kia said. “Hula is not for us to keep. It’s also to share. We created a hula event in a non-competitive environment.”

In the 13 years Kia has hosted the retreat, E Pili Kakou has evolved into a three-day celebration attracting attendees from all over the world, including visitors from Europe, Asia and South America.

To keep the retreat an intimate and spiritual event, Kia doesn’t allow any more than 400 attendees.

“That’s the long term success,” Kia said. “Many of the students are able to stay in contact with these teachers and they become a resource for them so they can grow.”

Each year, E Pili Kakou honors one of the living, senior kumu hula.

“Our honorees really become the focus and pinnacle over the weekend,” Kia said. “It adds another layer of spirit and memories that I can’t even predict.”

E Pili Kakou hosts retreats in Japan, Canada, Tahiti and California.

In addition to E Pili Kakou, Kia travels overseas to visit his 15 halau, which has taught more than 2,000 students the culture, music and dance of Hawai‘i. 

“My mission was to plant seeds for transplant Hawaiians who moved overseas,” Kia said. “We are the only halau with 15 chapters under one teaching, one law, one tradition. … No matter where I travel geographically, the one thing that remains true and pure and 100 percent is the results of E Pili is the same. Everyone is fulfilled with information, love and compassion.” 

E Pili Kakou I Ho‘okahi Lahui Hula Retreat begins today and runs through Sunday at the Kaua‘i Beach Resort in Lihu‘e. Visit www.EPiliKakou.com for more information or call 245-1955.

• Andrea Frainier, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or afrainier@thegardenisland.com.

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