Grantee: Mark Keali`i Ho`omalu
Native Ancestry: Native Hawaiian
Location: Hayward, Calif.
Award: 2016 National Artist Fellowship
Discipline: Artistic Innovation
Web Site: http://academyofhawaiianarts.org
Mark Keali`i Ho`omalu is a practitioner and kumu (teacher) of hula who trained under the strict discipline of this dance tradition. His teacher had a willingness to experiment outside the conventions of hula and is credited with forging a new path for a warrior-style hula that is now a celebrated dance form. Through his teacher’s mentorship and support, Mark Ho`omalu was inspired to experiment and take risks creating his own hula style as a kumu, a dancer, a choreographer and a composer of chant.
Mark Ho`omalu is the kumu hula, founder and Artistic Director of the Academy of Hawaiian Arts, a cultural and educational institution dedicated to sustaining time-honored and contemporary Hawaiian arts. He is also the Director of MKH Productions, a publishing company for his music and dance production projects.
Mark began dancing hula at the age of 15, at a time when women were dancing the contemporary style of `auana hula, which dominated the art form. He was fortunate to study under kumu hula Darrell `Ihi`ihilauakea Lupenui, who is credited for the re-introduction of a warrior-style hula in the classical tradition of kahiko. Most notably, Mark was part of a new era in the contemporary history of hula when the power of men’s dances gained in acceptance and popularity, thus enabling them to return to the dance floor. Mark took his place with the “Men of Waimapuna”, where he trained as a `olapa (dancer) and ho`opa`a (chanter). His training included the study of Hawaiian history and cultural practices.
Respected among his peers, Mark brings to hula an unconventional and sometimes controversial style of rhythms and movement. While his creative and invigorating style abounds, he retains the traditional identity and style of hula within his work.
Ho`omalu has had increasing success with national and international shows and tours, and his Academy of Hawaiian Arts school regularly competes at the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival. Among other achievements, Ho`omalu was nominated for the 2002 Annie Award for Music in an Animated Feature Production for “Lilo and Stitch” and for Best Original Song for “Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride,” which he wrote for “Lilo and Stitch.”
Support from the fellowship will enable Ho`omalu to step back from his ongoing projects and focus on the development of new ideas for a performance piece or a theatrical dance production.
When I’m chanting, I can hear my heart beat, I can hear the sound in my body; everything dances. Ocean dances, the trees dance, the dust dances, and it has this flow.
~ Mark Keali`i Ho`omalu