Beyond the stereotypes of 'grass-skirt girls’, NĀ KAMALEI: THE MEN OF HULA is an award-winning feature-length documentary about the revival of men dancing hula focusing on legendary master hula teacher & Hawaiian entertainer, Robert Cazimero, and the only all-male hula school in Hawaiʻi.
From tourist kitsch to old Hollywood movies, many people are familiar with romanticized images of women dancing the hula in Hawai’i. While few are aware of the sacred traditions of the dance, the role of male hula dancers has long been overshadowed by Western concepts of gender and sexuality. From ancient times, when men learned the dance along with the martial arts of battle, to the suppression of the dance under missionary ban, the hula survived underground for many years until the cultural renaissance of the 1970’s.
In 1975, at the height this revival, master hula teacher Maiki Aiu Lake asked her student, legendary entertainer Robert Cazimero, to open a school for only male dancers. With six young high school students, Robert Cazimero founded Hālau Nā Kamalei and it suddenly became ‘hot’ for men to dance hula again. Celebrating their 30th anniversary, Nā Kamalei: The Men of Hula tells a story of Hawaiian pride through the examination of male roles in Hawaiian culture both in the past and the present.
Blending dance and culture with the personal stories of the men, the film follows the dancers—who range in age from 18 to 55 years old—as they return to the largest hula competition in the world. Often called the “Superbowl of Hula”, the stakes are high at the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival. Though the school won over thirty years ago in 1975, the competition today typically favors women or the younger, more physically chiseled men’s groups. These men, many of whom are the oldest in competition, instead seek not to win, but to dance with pride and masculine grace.
Capturing the grueling rehearsals and the nervous last minutes backstage to the preparations of their leis and offerings to the goddess of the volcano, Nā Kamalei’s exciting return to the stage thrusts male hula dancers into the spotlight once again. Called a ‘rare victory’ for a men’s group, Robert and his me sweep the awards with their warrior-like dancing. NĀ KAMALEI: THE MEN OF HULA highlights the men’s ageless joy of dancing to reveal a renaissance that is not fading, but continuing the proud legacy of men in perpetuating the art of hula.
ROBERT ULUWEHI CAZIMERO
The DANCERS OF
HĀLAU NĀ KAMALEI O LĪLĪLEHUA
In the 1970's, Robert Cazimero was instrumental in the resurgence of Hawaiian music and culture. That resurgence began a career that almost thirty years later is stronger than ever. Musician, composer, kumu hula...his work in all of these areas is well-known throughout the world. His incomparable elegant voice is distinctive, whether he performs solo on piano or with his brother, Roland as The Brothers Cazimero. Collectively as The Brothers Cazimero and individually, Robert has released over thirty albums over th past three decades. A prolific composer, many of Robert's compositions have become classics and been performed by numerous musicians.
Robert Cazimero is also one of the most respected kumu hula of Hawaiian dance today, and his dancers, the men of Kamalei, appear with The Brothers Cazimero around the world. Hawai‘i's popularity as a vacation destination has brought Hawaiian music beyond her shores and the popularity of this ethnic brand of music has allowed Robert to perform in locales such as Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Hollywood Bowl, the World Expo in Brisbane, Australia, Hong Kong, Tokyo; and annually in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle to sell out crowds. The many talents of Robert Cazimero have established him as legend in Hawaiian music and culture.