Saturday night, nearly 100 performers from as far as Sacramento, Los Angeles and Hawaii will descend on South San Francisco High School to dance to the beat of a shark skin drum.
South City's Kaululehua Hawaiian Cultural Center is putting on a production so elaborate that it only happens every couple of years. The performers, 25 of whom are from South City, range in age from 3 to over 80 and in experience from 1 to 20 years.
“[This event] is one of those ‘what was I thinking things,” jokes Kawika Keikialii Alfiche, the master, or Kumu, of the group.
The Hula Pahu dance, which the group will perform on Saturday, is part of a traditionally sacred ceremony that was once performed in Hawaiian temples, and requires a shark skin drum. The dance, along with other Hawaiian dances were banned by Anglo missionaries in the early 19th century.
“My goal is to be able to see it more,” says Alfiche, who has been teaching Hawaiian dance for 19 years. “I’m intrigued with it; it’s a haunting drum.” According to Alfiche, Hula Pahu is still one of the most rare traditional Hawaiian dances performed today.
Seven other Kumus, or masters of the dance, will arrive from Mexico, LA, Walnut Creek, Hawaii, and Berkeley to chant and drum in the South City performance.
Alfiche learned of hula dancing from a young age, through his family’s interest.
“My aunt is my all time favorite story teller,” he says. “When she comes, I just sit on the carpet with my head in my hand and I listen to her.”
On Saturday, Alfiche's aunt will arrive from Maui to perform as the master storyteller for the first act, which will focus on ancient Hawaiian narratives. The second act will be more modern and will include singing and guitar.
Alfiche says that the strong Hawaiian community in South City is an important part of the dance group.
“Just on my block, there’s four Hawaiians,” he says. The center’s dance group “is purely Hawaiian, which is Hula, not to be confused with Polynesian. It’s 100% Hawaiian.”
The cultural center was founded in 1994, and its resource center and library was completed in 2006 with help from profits from Alfiche's first album release.
The group has now performed internationally, and Alfiche has since released a second album, Nalei. Funds raised at Saturday’s event will go toward the center.
The event organizers hope to attract an audience of those in-the-know about traditional Hawaiian dance, as well as viewers who are completely new to the genre.
As of Thursday, 100 tickets of 1,100 were still available.
Tickets are $20 for kids and $30 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at the door, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for willcall. The theater opens at 6:30 for the 7 p.m. show. The event is at South San Francisco High School at 400 B Street.