Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fréjus Vous Accueil Fête with Hula!

Wow. Yesterday was a special party put on by Fréjus Vous Accueil to celebrate their 30th anniversary. As we are members of this group and take advantage of some of their activities (bus trips, classes) we decided to go. Plus, my hula group, weeks ago, suggested they perform the dance they were learning to show the other members and let them see first hand that hula classes were now available too! And for a limited time only!

We went early to help set up tables and chairs. The caterers were also there with the place settings. The room was large and located in Port Fréjus, a few blocks from our apartment. Immediately on entering I was inspired by the location. We had 180º views of the harbor--packed with boats and the sea beyond them. My spirits soared anticipating that view while dancing. After making suggestions to a handful of French ladies about the number of guests, the number of tables, the math involved, and the possible placements of such, Rick finally gave up, watched them argue, moved tables as requested and shook his head as a standard U-shape finally filled the room. He then made the brilliant suggestion and necessary cajolling to get me to dance a kahiko to invite hula into the room. I danced Aia La ‘O Pele i Hawai‘i with good effect. My head was clear and ready and the dancers were ready for a warm-up. I'm not sure the effect on the organizers or the caterers, but later one of the caterers kept asking me questions or telling me things, as if I was in charge. Must be the effects of Pele!

There were 58 guests and the two girls, Irie and Abigail were accommodated with their own child's menu, kind of. They received shaved ham instead of a salad with foie gras. Their main meal was veal with veggies, just like the rest of us. They also tried out the cheese plate and of course loved the dessert. The wine was local, the champagne authentic. I could have stuffed myself, but as I was dancing later I paced myself. We sat with our friends Nathalie and Laurent, Hélène, and Michelle and Abbie. Everyone had a job: the 4 ladies dancing, Rick on sound and smile inspiration, Irie and Abbie on still photos, and Laurent shooting video.

We don't have fancy, organized costumes. We do have friendship, a lot of practice time and genuine intention of giving the gift of aloha. My French is limited, but I've done my best to convey to my group the spirit of aloha, what it means to be in tune and comfortable with your body while dancing, and what a gift it is to share something so profound that you have learned. Our class day is Friday, so we had a last minute chance to practice together. It was rainy, grey and cold, so I drew a change of scene on a whiteboard: sun, rainbow and the 4 of us dancing on a beach. I also let them know I was struggling with a heaviness in my heart about my own group at home. I likened it to growing pains, told them I thought all would be ok, and that performing with them the next day was the ultimate affirmation of hula for me, and exactly what I needed at this time.

As we held hands before going on to perform I reiterated the message that what they were about to do was really special and the audience was lucky indeed. My nerves were kicked up a notch--not because I was dancing but because I had to introduce our dance and briefly explain hula in French. Can you imagine? BRIEFLY explaining hula! My little speech went fine, and I'm bragging, but we were great! It was so easy--the applause that greeted us when we entered, the view, Rick providing our smile prompts, the girls running around taking pictures, Laurent with the video cam, the appreciative and interested gazes from the audience, and best of all the feeling of oneness between the dancers. After dancing Ke Ao Nani my 3 students stood behind me with support while I performed my new dance, Honomuni. This dance about Moloka‘i and a jeep ride is our next project and it is a fast and fun song. Then we all held hands for our final bow to enthusiastic applause.

What happened next, in our chilly little dressing room, was not captured on film but lives in my heart. The 2 French women became tearful and cried as they let themselves realize what had just happened, what they had given, what they felt--for themselves and each of us. Michelle, my American friend, has experience dancing hula with her church, so she has been lucky enough to feel the profondeur of it. She and I looked at each other, beaming. I said to my French friends, "you get it." They nodded silently with tears streaming. They told me they thought of me and my worries with my group at home, and how they could see that the dance itself rose above the pesky, petty, mundane worries of life and made them seem small. I welled up telling Rick about it later, and am welling up now.

We changed back into our party attire and met our public. I was approached by 2 women who report their intention to show up next Friday. They have prior jazz/tap experience so I'm hoping to integrate them into my existing group. After the guests trickled away we helped with clean up and Rick, knowing what is best for me, encouraged a dance of the slow version of Nani Hanalei to close out the room. You can see video of Ke Ao Nani here or see side bar for YouTube link. Due to technical difficulties the end was cut--oops!

My French is improving. But love, aloha, friendship and hula transcend language.

Much love and aloha to all who gave of their time to read this, Lisa


Michelle et Abigail said...

Mahalo Lisa for being such a beautiful inspiration to us all, for encouraging us that we too could be graceful when we danced with the spirit of Aloha. As you know there were days that were cold and windy that it certainly wasn't a desire to go to practice, but after I was always so glad I went.

Last night was the "proof in the pudding" and it is a memory, given to me by you..a gift, that I shall never forget.

Merci mon amie,

Bren said...

I welled with pride, admiration and love! Mom

Mom & Dad Browne said...

Good going Lisa.

Nathalie said...

Merci Lisa de nous transmettre, avec tout ton coeur et toute ta passion, cette merveilleuse danse qu'est le (la?!) Hula. Jamais nous n'aurions pu connaître cela sans toi et je trouve que c'est vraiment une grande chance de t'avoir rencontrée. Je garderai toujours un souvenir ému de cette expérience partagée.
love you