The Light Fantastic
I have something to write about. The word ecstatic trips me. Ec-static, not normal, it’s not business as usual. Weird.
In the otherwise dense vegetation of Puna, Kamapua’a’s home, there thrives a venue for ecstatic dance, Kalapani. Kamapua’a, Pele’s opposite and lover, god of vegetation, damp, dark places; the one who brings the rain and who is sometimes portrayed as an eight-eyed boar. It is in Kamapua’a’s domain that I am tripping the light fantastic. Those of you who know me, know I’ve always liked to express myself through dance. A friend in Kalispell, Montana has often tried to get me to attend the ecstatic dances that occur there, but not until two weeks ago did I dispell my reservations and let myself go here. I’m glad I did.
I give thanks to Hi’iaka, Pele’s favorite sister, and the spirit she bestows upon those compelled to kick up their heels, cut a rug, do a jig. Hi’iaka is said to be Hawaii’s only native goddess. Pele carried her from Tahiti as an egg, keeping her warm under her armpit. Each week a different DJ mixes music in a long, well ventilated, screened-in,structure, open to a rugged coast, a boundary between opposites: Pele, fire goddess, Na-maka-o-Kaha’I, Pele’s older sister and goddess of the sea. It is believed that water is more powerful than fire?! It’s as if the opposing sisters make peace for two hours on Sunday mornings though to let Hi’iaka’s spirit move through us to the beat of tribal/techno drums at Kalapani.
Powerful beats hold ethereal, fairy tunes down to earth. Hip undulating, Latin rhythms bring the bull fighters and gypsy flamenco dancers into the light. Techno-futuristic, disjointed sound bytes challenge my sense of rhythm, coaxing me to invent a move that lets the sounds flow through my arms, my feet, my legs, my fingers, toes, torso, and head. I transform from a person listening to the music into the music. Sweat pours down my face, my arms, chest and back and I’m not alone. Pools of sweat are visible on the wooden floor. Dancers writhe on hands and knees as they mop up their sweat with towels. We’ve been asked before dancing to mop up our sweat for safety’s sake. Young and old, thin and corpulent flow with the music. Some dancers move gracefully through the crowd, chanting, mimicking primates and birds. Talking is disallowed. We are there to express ourselves through our bodies; to respond through our limbs not our lips.
Ancient Hawaiian wisdom teaches that it is our duty to find our source of “mana”, to cultivate it and use it to increase our awareness and co-create a world of harmony, well-being and aloha. We create the Gods we worship and their spirits respond to the intention and attention we give them. The “mana”/personal energy we give them strengthens them.
At the end of each dance session, Joel, the organizer, calls us into a tight circle. Our toes touch as we sit huddled together. Spontaneous chants break loose, as do laughter and animal calls. I feel and allow a belly laugh to animate my spirit and the spirits of everybody present.
The “aina”, the land, is alive and well here in Puna and I intend to respect and nurture it. I am grateful to be here and I extend a heartfelt thanks to all those who make Kalapani ecstatic dance what it is. Mahalo!