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Longtime dancer of the late Kumu Hula Johnny Lum Ho shares his legacy

johnny lum ho.jpg
Courtesy Merrie Monarch Festival
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Kumu Hula Johnny Lum Ho's Hālau O Ka Ua Kanilehua wins First Place Wahine ʻAuana at the 2016 Merrie Monarch Festival

The hula world is mourning the death of Hawaiian hula master Johnny Lum Ho on Sunday, April 3. One of his longtime dancers shared her memories of the beloved kumu hula.

Hanakahi Perreira says Ho was a creative genius best known for his crowd-pleasing performances, which were full of rich storytelling and artistic flair.

"Ke kuhi a ka lima, ke au wāwae – nā mea a pau he manaʻo kona ma kona haku ʻana. Ahuwale ka mana’o o ke mele ma o ka hula. ‘O ia ka mea e kaulana loa ai ʻo ia."

Johnny and Perreira’s daughter
Hanakahi Perreira
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Kumu Hula Johnny Lum Ho and Hanakahi Perreira’s daughter

She says every hand gesture and foot movement was intentionally designed to bring the song to life on stage.

Perreira began dancing for the man she calls Uncle Johnny when she was just 3 years old, and has spent the last 42 years in and out of his hālau in Hilo — Hālau O Ka Ua Kanilehua.

"ʻAʻole ʻo ka hula wale nō kāna hoʻoilina e waiho nei i waena o mākou nā ʻōlapa a hoa hula. Nui nā haʻawina a ʻo ke aloha o ke Akua paha ka mea nui loa."

She says hula isn’t the only legacy he’s left behind for her and her fellow dancers. There were many lessons and perhaps the greatest was the love of akua, of God.

"I loko o nā makahiki he lōʻihi a me nā haʻawina a pau aʻu i ʻike ai nui ka pā o koʻu naʻau i ka noʻonoʻo i ka pilina o kaʻu mau kaikamahine me ia. ʻO kēlā paha ka mea aʻu e minamina loa ai a mahalo nui loa ai kekahi."

She says over the many years and with all the lessons, her fondest memory of her kumu was seeing him teach her own daughters. She says knowing they too got to forge a bond with Uncle Johnny before he died is bittersweet.

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