With their joyous and colorful celebrations of Hawaiian song and hula, the Case Middle School May Day Program and Academy Holokū Pageant have delighted audiences for generations – and this year will be no different. Although the community won’t be able to assemble in the gym, the experience will be broadcast on May 1 through a joint effort by Holokū organizers and Punahou’s video production team, headed by Andrew Ryan ’03.
Planning for the project began in November to carry on a tradition that has been a part of the lives of Holokū co-directors Leilehua Phillips ’95 Utu and Lauli‘a Phillips ’98 Ah Wong and many others’ for generations. Since the middle school program mirrors the Academy’s pageant in songs and dances, the two groups traditionally practice together but perform separately.
For last year’s Holokū, which took place during distance learning, students submitted their own individual performances, which were edited together. Fortunately, this year, students were able to come together on campus for two days to film their performances, having learned their dances over Webex from faculty members and student directors.
The result is a beautiful video performance with the backdrop of the Lily Pond, Pu‘u o Mānoa, the Kosasa Community and other scenic areas on campus. “It’s been exciting to treat this year differently and take advantage of campus,” said Ryan, who videoed the performances. “It will be nice for family and alumni who haven’t been able to come back to campus to see it.”
The celebration of natural scenery speaks to the theme this year, which is Ola Hawai‘i. “Ola means life, so it’s a celebration of the beauty of the place, the plants, the mountains and the community. It’s about bringing hula to life as it’s meant to be,” said Ah Wong.
The theme is also a celebration of ‘ike Hawai‘i (knowledge about Hawai‘i) and gratitude to be able to come together on campus to perform together. “We’ve really missed connection, and this was a year to connect,” said Utu. “That’s really why we do what we do.”
For students, especially the senior directors, coming together on campus signaled a sense of normalcy after all the distributions of the pandemic and a feeling of relief that they could be a part of the program for their final year of high school.
“I have been participating in the May Day program since kindergarten, so I was beyond thrilled when the aunties said we would be able to have an in-person component to Holokū 2021,” senior director Raychel Oato ’21 said. “The energy of dancing alongside my classmates and student directors made me feel overwhelmed with appreciation and happiness. I think the pandemic has really shown us all how much we must hold onto these small moments of just being able to be high schoolers.”
Photos by Kathleen Connelly
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