La MaMa Blogs: 6 QUESTIONS: Kiku Sakai

Thursday, June 19, 2014

6 QUESTIONS: Kiku Sakai

Sam records Kiku in the La MaMa offices.

La MaMa resident artist Kiku Sakai is curating and performing in TALES OF PELE: HAWAI'I'S GODDESS OF FIRE, a myth told through the arts of hula and hula ki'i, June 19th - 20th in the Ellen Stewart Theatre. She sat down with Sam Alper for an impromptu six questions.

1. As a resident artist, how did you first become involved with La MaMa?
Originally, at the beginning, I was a student studying theater administration and I needed to find a an internship. I somehow got into La MaMa as a an intern and I really liked it. So I extended my internship period for one year and I thought maybe I can do some part time job here. I got a part time job and then I got a full time. At the same time I was doing hula, separately. It was pretty much at the encouragement of Ellen Stewart, Mama, saying I should do a hula show. She was really encouraging. I was like 'no no no no no, hula is not really a show..." but finally I did it with Pua Ali’i ‘Ilima, a hula halau (hula school) that I am a member of, in 2010.

2. You dance hula and also do a form of puppetry related to hula. Can you tell us a little about that?
In addition to hula I was doing puppetry work, mainly with Loco 7 and Federico Restrepo, Theodora Skipitares, Vit Horejs. Then my kumu hula, who is a hula master, master teacher, Vicky Holt Takamine, found out I was interested in puppetry. She told me, there is a traditional, somewhat forgotten, hula form, hula ki'i, which is puppetry hula. She had a student Mauliola Cook, who learned from Aunty Nona Beamer, who is the one who revived modern hula ki'i. So my teacher Vicky thought I could learn from Mauliola. That's how it all started.

3. Do you have a preference between hula and hula ki'i?
Hula ki'i is so much fun but so difficult. Hula you dance with your body, but in ki'i, you have an additional body on your hand, and you have to collaborate with the puppet. In hula, usually you use both hands, but you have to work with one hand and then the other is devoted to the puppet, so technically, that's why it can be difficult.  

4. What can audiences expect from TALES OF PELE?
You're going to learn the journey of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire. Now she resides in a volcano on the Big Island, the island of Hawai'i. She had to come there from Havaiki, another island, so you're going to learn how her journey was - with hula and hula ki'i.

5. What shows in the past La MaMa season inspired you?
Of course all the puppet shows, because I'm still learning how to do puppetry. And of course the dance festival is great. Each choreographer and each dancer has a different style of expression. I like Miki Orihara's work. She has so much deep emotion that gets expressed through her movement. Her work is very inspiring to me.

6. Can you tell us a bit about your collaborators on Tales of Pele?
I mentioned my kumu hula, Vicky Takamine, and then her son is also a kumu hula,  Jeffrey Takamine. Mauliola Cook, my teacher is a part of the show. Then I had the privilege to meet another hula ki'i master from Maui, Kapono'ai Molitau and his student Moanalani Beamer, who is another great kumu hula. All the hula dancers and local artistsin New York are so supportive. We couldn't do the show without them.

La MaMa presents:


Curated by Kiku Sakai
Featuring Kumu Hula (master teachers of Hawaiian dance) and performing artists from O’ahu, Maui and Kaua’i islands of Hawai’i and New York City

June 19th – 20th, 2014 @ 7pm

The Ellen Stewart Theatre @ La MaMa
66 East 4th Street
(between Bowery and Second Avenue)
New York, NY 10003

Tickets: $20 Adults - $15 Student/Senior; ten tickets priced at $10 are available, in advance, for every performance via web, phone or box office as part of La MaMa's 10@$10 ticketing initiative. 10@$10 tickets not available day of show.

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE

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