It’s a bad pun to say that hula is hip, but in the hands of Patrick Makuakane, it couldn’t be truer.
Makuakane, director of the San Francisco-based hula group Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu, has organized flash mob hulas in the Castro and on Hawaiian Airlines flights. His dancers perform what he calls “hula mua” — Hawaiian dance accompanied by non-Hawaiian music.
“We use pop, alternative, electronic, opera and jazz — all types of musical genres,” says the Hawaiian-born Makuakane, who founded the company 27 years ago. “We use traditional movement vocabulary as a foundation, but the movement is somewhat contemporary. I am influenced by the S.F. urban scene, so that finds its way into the choreography. But first and foremost, we are a Hawaiian dance company, so we don’t leap, we don’t do turns. Hula remains the foundation.”
“The Hula Show 2012,” which opens Saturday at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, features traditional hula — with roots in Hawaiian poetry and oral storytelling — and hula mua.
A remix of Coldplay’s “Clocks” is one tune that Makuakane transformed into a vehicle for hula mua. Seen on YouTube, the movements are unmistakably hula, with undulating hips, softly stepping feet, calm shoulders and poised arms.
Yet there’s a palpable buzz while dancers perform ancient movements to the pulsating contemporary pop. The dancers beam, the audience is rapt and brief solos, not unlike a breakdancing competition, showcase virtuoso moves.
“The Hula Show 2012” is packed with 15 premieres, including a work inspired by King Kalakaua’s jubilee of 1886, the jazzy “The Little Black Dress,” a hip-hop remix hula and the new “Birth Certificate Hula” — a satirical response to the citizenship controversy surrounding President Barack Obama.
Audiences can also dance at an interactive family matinee Oct. 28.