For many years The Echo‘s Lilith has been known for delivering Byron Shire its weekly horoscope, but you may not know that our resident stargazer is also a dancer.
Lilith has been teaching hula in Byron since she formed the Bay’s first hula group, The Hulahines, in 2006. ‘I started Byron Bay Hula – Mana Aloha Troupe seven years ago when I was 70. On my 77th birthday my students presented me with a book they’d had printed of our last seven years together – it’s my most precious possession.
Lilith says that classes are fun. ‘We laugh a lot, and deep,’ she says. ‘Classes touch on history, geography, botany, meditation, language, poetry, imaginative interpretation, emotional expression, chanting, dance, releasing stress, personal growth, learning to work with group dynamics, the list goes on…
‘Everyone who’s progressed to the troupe says that hula has changed and enriched their life.’
At the beginner level, Lilith says students learn about the history of how ancient hula morphed into its current contemporary form. ‘We tune into nature and the elemental world, with our own ancestral roots and the spirit of the land we dance on.
‘We also learn the foundational movements which all hula is based on, along with basic hula terminology as well as the principles of aloha, which include courtesy, respect, kindness, generosity, solidarity, patience and more.
Lilith says Hawaiian chants and language are part of the tradition and choreography is taught in both English and Hawaiian.
Exciting time for beginners
‘We have a kumu hula – master teacher Kawika Alfiche – returning to Byron in early October, so it’s a highly exciting time for beginner hula students right now, because they get the rare opportunity to learn some basic skills so they can study with, and perform for him, in a few months.
Lilith says the dance form is an all-encompassing combination of physical workout and mental exercise in remembering choreography, learning a different language and imaginatively becoming the different elements you’re dancing. ‘Since all hula are love songs celebrating a person, place or activity, there’s a lot of accessing feelings and developing emotional flexibility.
Hula honours the natural world
‘The spiritual aspect of hula honours the natural world, and the gratitude for opportunities to perform hula which provides joy for others is nourishing and rewarding.’
Lilith says she loves it when beginners progress to performing with the troupe and sharing what they’ve learned. ‘Now in our seventh year of dancing together, our hula ohana (family) celebrate birthdays together, spend days weaving plants and flowers and when I had to spend time in hospital the troupe came to dance for me – a tremendous treat for the staff and other patients.’
Lilith says that it’s often people who’ve been touched by seeing the group perform who seek out classes. ‘It’s people wanting something more than just a dance workout,’ she says. ‘It’s more about connection with emotions and the natural world.
‘Fortunately for me as a teacher, husbands of students are usually so delighted by the results of hula class in their partners they’re happy to mind the kids, carry equipment and take videos. Our hula husbands are a very valued support.’