Kumu Hula Puanani Alama

One of Hawaii’s oldest Kumu hula living today continues to Keeping the Legacy of hula alive. As well as being the last surviving original Merrie Monarch judge, Puanani Alama refuse to quit. Still teaching four days a week at her studio in Kaimukī, just down the hall from where her sister, the late kumu hula Leilani Alama taught. In the 1940’s,prior to their young teenage years, they were entertainers in Waikīkī. Alama has worked with a few of Hawai’i’s ideal vocalists, including Bill Ali’iloa Lincoln and also Genoa Keawe on the Lucky Luck Show. Now in her late 80’s, she has actually been instructing for more than 70 years. Her daughter, Puanani Jung, carries on the practice as a kumu hula in Laguna Hills, California, and also her twin granddaughters additionally dance.

A Very Young Kumu

I began hula at a very young age. We both loved to hula, my sister Leilani and I. I was in the 7th or 8th grade when I began to teach. My sister had opened the Alama Hula Studio in 1943. After I finished school, I’d run to my aunties house in Kalihi to teach hula to those who wanted to learn.

Uncle Ali’iloa Lincoln called my mama to see if I wanted to teach for him. She stated, ‘Go talk with Uncle Bill. Well, I really did not have to, due to the fact that he just said, ‘You have a class.’

Nobody gave me trouble or was annoyed with me since they were enjoying my teaching. They were watching me and they liked exactly what they saw so they encouraged me. I was about 15 years old.

The young Puanani Alama Dancing in Waikiki

The young Puanani Alama Dancing in Waikiki

I did not make it to college since I knew for the most part I was going to be a hula instructor.

All of a sudden you see skyscrapers and beautiful shops where you used to work in Waikiki. How many can tell you they saw exactly how it was way back then?

Hula Is Special/Keeping The Legacy

Hula dancing is special. Due to the fact that every part of your body moves. Your feet, your knees, your hips, your arms, your fingers, your face, your mouth, everything moves. Can you tell me, what other kind of dance can do just that?

Beautiful Kumu hula Puanani Alama

Beautiful Kumu hula Puanani Alama

Sometimes I get stiff. I walk with a cane since I move too fast and I can fall. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed. I say, OK, what am I going to do? I’m going to ‘ami all the way to the shower room. There are so many things I can do with the hula. Hula helps me a lot.

Any person no matter where their from, as long as you dance hula, you are Hawaiian at heart. Doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. If you enjoy dancing the hula, then you will enjoy it.

Never hesitate to show it. I’ll place my cane down and stand up and dance. People ask, ‘Auntie, are you OK?’ I’m fine. After I dance, I get my cane and walk away. If you really feel that way, nothing holds you back.”

The Last Surviving Original Merrie Monarch Judges, Kumu Hula Puanani Alama