A Platform Promoting Place-based Indigenous Knowledges, Indigenized Research and Future Generations.
Aloha! My name is Candace Marie Kananiokamokihana Melendez. I began showing interest in hula t the age of 2 years old. When I was only 3 years old, I would sit down and imitate and mimic tapes of people chanting. At the age of 5 years old, I started my formal training through Kumu Hula- Auntie Kathy Kapua Templeton. Through Auntie Kathy, I learned the necessary basic hula steps which later on in my hula career would become a great asset to me. After dancing with Auntie Kathy for 4 years, she explained to me that I would have to learn hula through a different path. She then introduced me to my next Kumu- Auntie Gloria Napualani Fujii.
Auntie Gloria taught me the necessities on how to become a great show dancer. She taught me make-up application but most of all taught me how to enjoy and appreciate my hula.While dancing with Auntie Gloria, I was able to compete ins everal competitions in the state as well as in California and Canada. Auntie Gloria gave me the honor of competing for Ms. Keiki Hula in the 1988 Pacific Northwest Polynesian Dance Competition. During that time, I started to focus more on Tahitian dancing so my mother enrolled me into Kumu Hula- Uncle Newton Ka`anohi Hitchcock's tahitian classes. Uncle Newton was also the founder of the Pacific Northwest Polynesian Dance Competition.
Under the direction of Uncle Newton, my interest for hula began to grow. In the fall of 1988, I became a haumana of Ka`anohi's Hula Halau. At this point, I knew hula would be a part of my life forever. Uncle Newton taught me how to research songs, refine my chanting, be humble and most of all express my feelings within my dancing. Discipline played a major part with his teaching which I truly enjoyed. Through him, I knew one day that in my heart I would become a kumu hula. When I was with him, I felt strong and confident in my kahiko. I was fortunate enough to be part of the exhibition group that Uncle Newton took to the 1989 Merrie Monarch Festival. During that experience, I was able to meet many renowned Kumu Hula, some of which I still keep in contact today.
On July 2, 1989 my world fell apart when Uncle Newton passed away after a massive heart attack at the age of 36. At this point, I didn't know if I wanted to continue on with my hula. I took a four month leave from dancing to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. In October 1989, I began to dance and assist in teaching for Kumu Hula- Auntie Ku`ulei De Los Santos. Auntie Lei taught me how to design costumes and to be a graceful `auana dancer. After 6 months with Auntie Lei, I decided to take another break, but this time it was to focus on my school studies. In June of 1990, I was asked by the late Kumu Hula - Auntie Claire Cortez to dance in her Polynesian floor shows. Since Auntie Claire and Uncle Newton were friends, I felt that they were similar in ways with their hula but most of all in their styles of tahitian. After dancing with Auntie Claire for about 5 months, I became her Alaka`i for the halau. Auntie Claire gave me the opportunity to choreograph mele, arrange music, design costumes and most of all, she allowed me to teach the classes. In July of 1996, I decided to part ways with the halau and further my horizons. I felt the only way that I could progress in my hula life, I needed to imua. After leaving the halau I began to receive phone calls for private lessons. At the same time my hula sister and life long friend, Regina Kuananiakua Shimomura also began to receive phone calls for private lessons. We decided that together we could begin teaching.
My primary focus would be in kahiko and her focus would be `auana. In August of 1996 with 5 dancers, Ka Lei Mokihana No Ke Akua was born. A year and half after the halau was created Gina wanted to focus more on family and gave me the responsibility to lead the halau into the future. Since that time I have had the pleasure of sharing the hula with 100+ dancers as well as many, many spectators. In August 2015, the halau evolved to the next level and became Halau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe. With the leadership of one of the original alaka`i and charter member of the halau, Noelani Ragudos is assisting to lead the halau to the next level. Every day of my life is filled with hula. Watching the sky, the trees, plants, flowers, people......anything in nature represents the hula.
The keiki, wahine and kane that I teach one day will pass the knowledge to others which will keep the hula alive and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture. Although I have danced with my na kumu hula, I have had the pleasure to take workshops with several kumu hula such as; The late Hula Master, Uncle George Naope, the late Auntie Tiare Clifford, the late Uncle Ray Fonseca, The late Auntie Mililani Allen, The late Auntie Aloha Dalire, The late Auntie Leina`ala Kalama Heine, the late Uncle Palani Kahala, The late Doric Yaris, Auntie Iwalani Kalima, Uncle Etua Lopes, Auntie Kealoha Kalama, Uncle Tony Conjugacion, Uncle Kimo Alama Keaulana, Uncle Johnny Lum Ho, auntie Pi`i Lani, Uncle Kawai Cockett, Uncle Willie Pulawa and Kaui Dalire. Besides passing down my knowledge to children, I have been blessed with 3 beautiful children of my own. My son- Kamalani (27), daughter- Hemakanamaikapu`uwai (21) and my youngest son- Kahanuolaokalani (19). I also have two hanai children Keahipio`ole (daughter) and Ka`i`inimalulani (son).
My keiki will one day carry on my teachings within the halau. My inspiration besides my children comes from my mother, Adelina Marticio also known as Auntie Addie. She has been my backbone, my cheerleader and my biggest critic. Without her I wouldn't be where I am today. She has always taught me a very important thing- "A`ole i pau ka ike i ka halau ho`okahi- All knowledge is not taught in one halau."