Monday, February 8, 2016

Stand on the beach and chant as loud as you can

This is Ellen Kekuaokalani Delarossi, Delarossi being her married name. I met her after she performed with a hula group at the show. She is referred to as kumu hula, but kumu means much more than a teacher or performer. ""She is someone who has been taught and raised to dance hula and now teaches others and serves as a resource person," Ellen says. Note the beautiful lei made from the tips of ti leaves - "the lei of aloha," Ellen calls it - and the wreath made of feathers from birds on Oahu. No, Ellen tells me, they haven't been dyed orange. They're that color naturally. Imagine.

Stand on the beach and chant as loud as you can

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This is Ellen Kekuaokalani Delarossi, Delarossi being her married name. I met her after she performed with a hula group at the show. She is referred to as kumu hula, but kumu means much more than a teacher or performer. ""She is someone who has been taught and raised to dance hula and now teaches others and serves as a resource person," Ellen says. Note the beautiful lei made from the tips of ti leaves - "the lei of aloha," Ellen calls it - and the wreath made of feathers from birds on Oahu. No, Ellen tells me, they haven't been dyed orange. They're that color naturally. Imagine.

Ellen performs with a troupe from the Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu. She did the chants, while playing a double gourd. Usually, a single suffices, but the double produces a deeper, louder sound. Ellen is a lifelong student of hula, having studied as a child with an aunt who also was a kumu hula, "a living treasure," her niece calls her. "She taught me to chant. She always told me, 'You stand on the beach and chant out to the ocean as loud as you can get. You will be more confident that way,' " Ellen recalls.

And that is what she did, from age 3 onward. She is now 60.

Ellen is wearing red and gold (orange), the colors of royalty, and points out the pattern on her cotton drape. Called a kihei, its patterns represent ocean, drums, moon, stars and flowers. Underneath she wears a sheath called a kikepa. Her voice is something else - deep and rich. You can just hear her out there on the beach, chanting for all she's worth.

Inquirer Staff Writer
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About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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