Article about $3,500 hula workout at Oahu resort raising eyebrows

Posted at 9:12 PM, Sep 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-16 23:12:48-04

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HI (KITV) — “A $3,500 hula class that will leave you breathless.” That is a headline of a Los Angeles Times article posted under its travel section last Wednesday that has turned some heads.

The article goes on to mention special meals included in the package features, saying “indigenous ingredients intended to provide energy and hydration.”

“The wording of the article, just the whole everything was like a total surprise to me,” La’akea Perry, Kumu Hula, Ke Kai O Kahiki, said.

Perry of award winning halau Ke Kai O Kahiki is mentioned in the story as the classes’ teacher. He took over teaching the group after its founder the late ‘O Brien Eselu died.

Perry says the LA Times never interviewed him for the piece. He believes the article is likely a result of some confusion.

“I know this has received a lot of mixed reviews and it’s probably just because it’s a misunderstanding, lack of information and I don’t hold anything against anybody for that,” Perry said.

Island News reached out to staff at the Four Seasons but have not yet heard back.

Some have likened the hula class idea to the selling out of Hawaiian culture. Perry says although he doesn’t agree with how the article portrayed the proposed hula class, he doesn’t see anything wrong with kumu charging to teach.

“At the end of the day, they have to have a place to live. They have to have a place to eat. If its not done that way, its gonna be hard for us to perpetuate our culture. That’s why we do it so we don’t have to charge our people money, we can get it from somewhere else,” Perry said.

Perry says he doesn’t charge his students tuition. It’s a tradition passed down from his kumu as a way to ensure nothing stands in the way of students coming in to learn their culture.

Island News also asked Perry if he’ll still consider teaching the class.

“If it’s done right and it’s done respectfully. We’re not gonna do anything that’s inappropriate or bad not only for ourselves but for everybody in the community, kumu and other halau,” Perry said.

Perry says he does currently teach traditional hula classes to guests at the resort, each participant pays $75.