Hosted in the Cone Field House on campus and boasting an attendance of over 800, this year’s Lū‘au was home to a myriad of entertainment, delicious food and a sense of community unique to the event.
Guests entering Sparks were greeted by the sound of performers singing traditional Hawaiian songs and strumming ukuleles. Shaved ice was available for guests waiting in the long entrance line and the walls of Sparks were adorned with decorations and preserved Hawaiian foliage, mailed to Salem by family members of students in the Hawai‘i Club.
As guests walked past the ukulele-playing musicians, student volunteers wearing Hawaiian shirts and leis welcomed them into the Cone Field House. On a large stage at the front of the gymnasium, Kaleo Titcomb, a performer, plucked on an acoustic guitar and sang traditional Hawaiian songs.
“Planning for Lū‘au began at the end of fall semester, and our dancers began rehearsing in March,” she said. “Everything is done in advance, including the food, which required a week of preparation. This year over 100 people contributed to the production, including volunteers, dancers and staff and faculty members.”
The amount of work put into Lū‘au was made obvious at the event. Tables placed throughout Cone Field House covered the entire gymnasium floor. Guests also had to be seated in the bleachers on one side of the gym to make enough room.
Also at Lū‘au was the Hawaiian country store. This store, a booth set up in Cone Field House gymnasium, was adorned in Hawaiian decorations and offered guests the option to purchase authentic Hawaiian snacks, knick-knacks and Lū‘au t-shirts. Many items were sent from Hawai‘i.
As guests perused Lū‘au’s various dinner attractions and began finding seats,the second half of Lū‘au began, featuring student choreographed dances in the style of Hawaiian, Tahitian and Maori cultures.
As each dance began, the show’s emcees introduced each performance with information about its history and meaning. To Sonoda, a big part of Lū‘au is about education.
“We’ve definitely wanted to keep our Lū‘au true to the spirit of Lū‘aus in Hawai‘i. As well, our performance committee is not just the performance committee, it is the performance and education committee. We really try to educate people about these cultures in a way that doesn’t adhere to Western interpretations or cliches about Hawai‘i.”
During the performance, Lū‘au’s dancers presented 12 different dances, both fast and and slow. Some featured only women, while others involved men and some were mixed gender. While many dances featured music with melodies and harmonies, some consisted of only beating drums.
As the show progressed, some dances were introduced by the emcees as traditional dances, while others were introduced as contemporary pieces. For example, Mele Lana‘i, performed by Willamette faculty and staff, is a contemporary Hawaiian dance about the importance of the small but famous island of Lana‘i.
Halfway through the performance was the fire dancing of Tolo Tutlele who at times would ‘eat’ fire, consequently lighting torches using the fire erupting from his mouth.
As the event came to a close, audience members were asked to sing along with the full production staff of Lū’au on stage, a traditional Hawaiian song sung to close every Willamette University Lū‘au.
To learn more about Lū‘au and to get involved in next year’s Lū‘au, please visit the Willamette website.
Featured Photo: Students perform the women’s Kahiko at Lū‘au on April 27.