Back when the MACC was still called "The Center," some of its greatest joys were the surprises. Not the legendary superstars, but the performances you knew little or nothing about that were so fresh and original that you felt your world had gotten bigger in the course of the evening.
The Maui Arts & Cultural Center may be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, but that doesn't mean it can't still do it. Case in point: Saturday's Wearable Art Show featuring works of island designers Keali'i Reichel, Maile Andrade, Manuheali'i, Marques Marzan, Wahine Toa, Keone Nunes and others.
Somewhere between hula and a fashion runway show, the stylish evening co-hosted by producer Vicky Holt Takamine and director Robert Uluwehi Cazimero actually felt more like stepping into a dream. The sultry environment engulfed audience and performers alike.
The MACC presentation was part of the statewide Annual Maoli Arts Month (MAM'o), produced by Takamine's PA'I Foundation. All those Hawaiian acronyms add to the challenge of trying to label or categorize what went on exactly, other than to say it was an amazing balancing act between ancient culture and cutting-edge contemporary. Part eye candy, part high art, part mesmerizing, part fun, all pulsing to a driving beat.
With gorgeous models in attire ranging from nearly naked (with tattoos) to elegant gowns, it managed to be sexy but stay wholesome at the same time. This had everything to do with the show's Hawaiian roots and spirit. Things got underway with an oli composed by John Keola Lake in 1991, performed by Na Hanona Kulike 'O Pi'ilani under kumu hula Kapono'ai Molitau and Sissy Lake Farm. The stage full of traditionally clad chanters spun balls in woven slings to accompany their complex vocalizing.
The models came in all sizes and ages down to very young. Bulimia was nowhere in sight; instead, there were island-style casual poses and shakas. Materials ranged from knotted fibers to colorful organic prints. Some of the designers, such as Marzan, Reichel and Tangaro, worked with knotted cordage that sometimes masked faces, created beings part human, part sea creature, like Bill Nighy's tentacle beard in "Pirates of the Caribbean."
* Rick Chatenever, former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and Emmy-nominated scriptwriter. Contact him at email@example.com or 344-9535.
Whale songs and Reichel's powerful music set the tempo. Under hair braided into wild crowns, and elaborate wiry tangles in some of the costumes, distinctions blurred between animal and plant. Everything was alive with possibilities, especially the designers' exuberant imaginations.
Tattoo artist Nunes did Hawaii's answer to "Magic Mike," delighting women in the audience and Cazimero at the podium. He and Takamine added humor to the proceedings as the models on stage paraded through a spectrum of moods and looks, from mesmerizing other-worldly gazes to fun-loving families heading for the beach.
Models pounded kapa as a queen arrived on her attendants' shoulders in kumu hula Hokulani Holt's Pa'u o Hi'iaka, opening the second act. The show featured many local contributions, some growing out of UH-Maui College's fashion-design classes. "Maui's in the house!" agreed Takamine and Cazimero at the podium.
To John Lennon's music, Andrade's styles were a throwback to the peace-and-love hopes of the '60s before Manaola Yap went from ancient mana to evening-gown elegance in an exciting presentation that ended the show on a high note and sent the audience scurrying upstairs for the trunk show.
The evening blurred the line between audience and artist. That happens when everyone's part of the ohana. Familiar faces stretched from Kili Namauu and Karen Fischer in the audience to Lehia Apana and Neida Bangerter among the models. Getting the prize for traveling the farthest to get there was Janet King from Kap City, Cambodia, visiting her sister, MACC Marketing Director Barbara Trecker.
Presented as part of the MACC's Local Voices series, this didn't feel like an isolated event so much as MAM'o's auspicious debut on Maui. Mark your calendar for next year.
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Kula friend and neighbor Harlan Hughes beat me down the hill to the MACC earlier last week to offer a "testimonial" on behalf of Hawaii Public Radio. I didn't wear my well-worn Mana'o Radio baseball cap to the taping, although listener coordinator Gwen Palagi said it would have been fine if I had.
Listener-supported radio is more cooperative than competitive in nature. And there sure are a lot of good alternatives for mindful listening at the left end of the FM dial these days.
Meanwhile on the Mainland, Maui "Supermensch" Shep Gordon has been busy since the island premiere of Mike Myers' comic documentary about him last month at the Maui Film Festival. You may have seen or heard Shep being interviewed lately by folks like David Letterman, Charlie Rose or NPR's Terry Gross.