Hula for Leolani Lowry started at a very young age, growing up on a sugar plantation north of Hilo, Hawai’i. At family gatherings, there would always be hula dancing and ‘ukulele playing. This was a big part of her upbringing.
Leolani’s dancing background consists of formal hula training at age four. She continued dancing the hula throughout her life. A graduate of the University of Hawai’i with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance Ethnology, she was also trained in Indonesian, Korean, Afro-Brazilian, Filipino, African, ballet, jazz and modern dancing. She has shared her knowledge of the hula and Hawaiian culture in the United States, the Caribbean, and throughout Europe. Leolani has also competed as a soloist in the hula and chanting, as well as in group competition.
The biggest influence in Leolani becoming a teacher is kumu hula Clark Bolivar of San Jose, CA. With his encouragement and his blessing, she began teaching in Santa Cruz in February 1998. Leolani is forever grateful for his guidance and knowledge of the Hawaiian culture.
To further her education in hula, she is currently studying with kumu hula Mapuana de Silva on O’ahu and has completed a special ’uniki ceremony in August 2007 as ‘olapa (dancer). She is continuing her journey to become a kumu hula (hula master). Knowledge is being passed down from several generations of teachers, invaluable to the next generation of hula dancers.
Leolani started teaching the hula in Santa Cruz to integrate Hawaiian culture, dance, music and history into the community. As the school grew, some of her students became kokua (helpers) who share in the School philosophy as teachers. Together they hope that the hula will be perpetuated for future generations with its basic intentions still intact and will flourish in today’s modern world.