Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Faith Perspectives

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Faith Perspectives

Article excerpt

Growing up in Hawaii was much like growing up in any other corner of suburban America. I rode my bike to school, sometimes watched "The Brady Bunch" or "Scooby Doo" with friends, alternately argued with and idolized my older brother, and, as a teenager, worried about all the usual stuff things like grades, acne, and who would ask me to the prom.

Then again, growing up in Hawaii also meant that I walked under the shade of banyan trees with the scent of plumeria and sickly sweet monkey pod wafting through the humid air.

In high school we moved to a house on the beach and I fell asleep listening to the crashing surf, and woke up early to swim in the warm Pacific before school. Always I was surrounded by the ocean, always swimming in it or walking near it, always drawn to its salty embrace.

And of course, I learned to play the ukulele and dance hula. Not well, mind you, but they were part of the curriculum at my public grade school, so I learned them, just like my daughter is learning to play the recorder and jump rope. Sadly, surfing was not a school activity, so I never did get the hang of that.

Last June my parish decided to throw a luau. It turns out I am not only the first woman rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, I am the only one from Hawaii! We are doing it again this year, today, in fact, from 5 to 8 p.m. One of the highlights of our Luau last year was the incomparable dancing of Dori Neumeier and her troupe, Hui Hula 'O Punahele.

Many mainlanders hear the word "hula" and immediately imagine the stereotype of scantily-clad girls wiggling their hips for tourists. In fact, hula is an ancient art form that for many practitioners verges on being a sacred activity. Those lucky enough to witness Dori and her dancers last year, their seriousness and skill might have surprised you.

We are blessed to be able to welcome Hui Hula 'O Punahele back for a repeat performance this year. The story of Dori's journey into the heart of Hawaiian culture is pretty cool, so I thought I'd share it.

Dori grew up in Anaheim, Calif., and was lucky enough to be introduced to hula lessons at the age of five. Her family was Baptist; although Baptists are usually discouraged from dancing, Dori's mother let her dance hula because it was a cultural experience. …

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