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CATCHING UP WITH KUMU KEALIʻI CEBALLOS

After a recent production meeting, JACCC’s Director of Performing Arts & Community Engagement Alison De La Cruz sat down with Kumu Kealiʻi Ceballos to talk about preparations for our annual holiday celebration: Aloha Kalikimaka on December 17, 2016.

Alison De La Cruz: Mahalo for helping us to bring a hālau holiday celebration back to the Aratani Theatre.  Can you tell us a little bit about why you enjoy coming back to artistically produce Alo­­­ha Kalikimaka?

Kealiʻi Ceballos: We as Kumu (teachers), or keepers of tradition, t­­­­he more we share history and information and knowledge with our students year after year after year it matters.  By continuing to do this concert holiday Hawaiian style – it gives our teachers and our hālau (hula schools) the opportunity to give back in a family festive atmosphere that we can continue to grow and grow here at the Aratani Theatre.  

Hula is not to be kept to ourselves but to be shared. Through our own teaching – our students become our extended ʻohana (family). Even with our 4 schools coming together – we don’t usually get to collaborate together hardly ever! This show gives us, as teachers, a chance to not only reach our regular supporters but to reach a community of people who don’t get an opportunity to see Hawaiian hula performances.  I hope that the word of the Aratani keeps getting more and more out there into the Downtown L.A. community and beyond.

AD: So you see this as part of a larger connection to Los Angeles’ greater diversity?  
KC: Yes, there is an importance of connecting culture to our daily lives – in this day and time, gosh, the relevance of coming together as a community and still trying to understand one another and how all of our differences make up such an important tapestry that we should learn about in order to appreciate the diversity in each one of our lives.

Little opportunities like this help us to celebrate our diversity. Our community level of understanding has got to increase if we are going to survive in this ever changing world of ours from a lot of misunderstanding and (I hate to say the word) hatred, to love and more awareness. This is our little way to bring light, love and laughter to our holiday season.

AD: What is special to you about this year’s production? If I came last year, will it be a different show?

KC: I think that you will witness and get to see a wider range of age participation – and a lot of that is because of the ʻukulele group through the JACCC’s new program ʻUkuleles for Little Tokyo. More and more people are tapping into the joy of creating their own music, through learning and the simple foundation of learning ʻUkulele. We have a great opportunity with U-Space, Jason Arimoto and multiple ʻUkuleles for Little Tokyo classes, that can tap into our heart strings of musicality and of bringing this joy for music to the Aratani stage. This year we are building on the learning of holiday music and we will be incorporating five languages, including the new addition of Korean, into our final number Silent Night. This show gives local families an opportunity to perform on a professional stage while giving back to those families that come to witness and celebrate the season in the audience with our joy and our passion for culture. It is only fitting to bring the ʻUkuleles for Little Tokyo students into the holiday season with and for us.

AD: What is your favorite holiday song?

KC: I have so many, but this year it is Christmas in Hawaiʻi and the lyrics say: “There is no snow but people go to church on Christmas morn” I am so excited for Aloha Kalikimaka, we are going to tell you what it is like in Hawaiʻi at Christmas through our songs and dances.

AD: See, that makes me think about how for some people, the holidays inspire ʻAloha’ type behavior i.e., seeing strangers in a more connected way or reaching out to others with a kindness. But for Hawaiians and the larger Hawaiian community, there is this cultural value of Aloha year round. Can you talk about how this might echo or change during the holidays?  

KC: We say community, but it comes from being part of a village. It’s only fitting because a village is a family – and that’s why we have the tradition of calling each other auntie and uncle. All the hālau come from a greater village of Los Angeles, and that extension of love, warmth and ­­family. It is multiplied during the holiday season because its our time of giving to one another, not necessarily focused on receiving. For some it is volunteering and serving at the Downtown mission, or perhaps it is donating food goods or money to causes we care about.

During the holidays it seems, we come back to our humanity, we come back to our basic needs as a community – what we need to give that helping hand to our extended human family. Our family needs that assistance, for some they maybe stubborn and pride filled, but when needed it’s always good to receive a helping hand. Perhaps the helping hand is to share love and laughter to remind of us good things. 

This season reminds us in our rat race lives, that if I’m not able to at any other time of the year, “I can do it now and I am grateful. I need to do what I can do and make a difference”.

The performers hope to do that with just a sharing of a dance and a song.

We hope that you will come and join us for Aloha Kalikimaka this Saturday, December 17, 2016. CLICK HERE for tickets and more information on our performers.

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