Recent MA Grad Builds Upon his Expertise in Hula

By September 8, 2015Alumni
Pele Kaio

Pele Kaio (left) on a recent trip to Japan, promoting hula as a ritual and spiritual dance.

Alumnus Pele Kaio graduated from Union Institute & University in March 2015, earning a Master of Arts with a major in History & Culture. During his M.A. program, Kaio followed his passion and interests. He researched scholarship on cultural leadership and Hawaiian cultural history. During his applications course he conducted archival research with a focus on traditional chants, dances, and crafts and attended the World Indigenous People’s Conference where he presented hula as a transformative process. For his master’s thesis, he held focus groups at hula schools and gathered perspectives about hula as a transformative and culturally-specific form of leadership.

He is now a lecturer in the Hawai`i Life Styles Program at Hawai`i Community College in Hilo, where he teaches Hula, Hawaiian Studies, and Hawaiian Language. Kaio also teaches a Hawaiian Studies course online and is using the skills learned in his experience at Union to deliver a successful online experience for his students.

Also a recent graduate of Unukupukupu, he has stepped into the role of kumu hula (hula instructor) and opened Unulau, a hālau (hula school) in July 2015. Unulau is based in Hilo on the campus of Hawai`i Community College and is comprised of 20 haumāna (students). He also assists a local charter school, Kanu O Ka `Āina in Waimea, Hawaii with their annual hula recital.

Kaio recently traveled to the `Īkoi Hula Festival in Yokohama, Japan and the Kumukahi Hula & `Ukulele Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada to promote hula as a ritual and spiritual dance. He led workshops in understanding how to use hula for leadership and personal growth and was invited to sit with other kumu hula on two hula panels to share personal critiques. These experiences have helped expand his purview of the potentiality of hula.