Ola Hawai‘i: May Day and Holokū 2021

“Ola Hawai‘i” was the theme for this year’s May Day and Holokū programs, acknowledging the blessings of having persevered through the many challenges of 2020, with the reminder to be thankful for our ‘aina, our people and our ‘Ike 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 Lauli‘a Phillips ’98 Ah Wong, who served as Holokū co-director with Leilehua Phillips ’95 Utu.

Although pandemic protocols didn’t allow for traditional, in-person celebrations at the Hemmeter Fieldhouse, students across the School were able to dance together for elaborate, virtual productions that were shot at the Lily Pond, Pu‘uomānoa, the Kosasa Community and other scenic areas on campus.

The virtual productions proved to be huge logistical undertakings, produced by Punahou’s video production team and coordinated by kumu and student directors. But carrying on the tradition of dancing hula together was a gift to all those involved.

“For a lot of us who came to Punahou from when we were little, May Day was always a really special time that brought everyone together,” said kumu Emma McGuire ’93, who taught hula to second and third graders. “Not only is it a way to really celebrate and teach ‘Ike Hawai‘i, but it’s a way for our community really to come together, not just teachers and students, but all of our ‘ohana. I think it’s a great opportunity for it to be online because we can reach families all over the world.”

Raychel Oato ’21, who has participated in May Day and Holokū since kindergarten, said she was thrilled when she learned she and other students would be allowed to dance together. “The energy of dancing alongside my classmates and student directors made me feel overwhelmed with appreciation and happiness,” she said. “I think the pandemic has really shown us all how much we must
hold on to these small moments of just being able to be high schoolers.”

– By Rachel Breitweser ’03 Nakamura and Diane Seo ’85

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