Britomart People / Aruna Po-Ching

Hula dance artist and teacher Aruna Po-Ching tells us how the hula tradition celebrates the land and creatures of the Pacific.

You performed a dance activation inspired by Charlotte’s work at our launch ceremony. Can you tell us about the type of dance you specialise in, and a little of its history? I am a Hawaiian hula practitioner. In the realm of hula, I am a kumu hula (hula teacher) and have been teaching and dancing Hawaiian hula since 2010.

How did you become interested in hula dancing? Whilst living in Sydney, Australia, I worked as a professional Polynesian dancer part time whilst working full time at a law firm. I had formed my own dance troupe Pasifika Sway and through networking and working I was introduced to a couple from Hawaii, and they taught me hula.

How do you see the art of hula being connected to Charlotte Graham’s artwork at Britomart?  Hula is a connection between the land and people. We imitate nature through our movements, depicting nature’s life and evolution.

What do you think of Charlotte’s work, and how did it shape your response to it in dance? I feel joyous when I look at Charlotte’s work, Te Waiora (Restorative Waters), encouraging people young and old to jump from rain drop to rain drop connecting ourselves with the waters. My hula reflects the kinship of the people with the waters and the sea with our land. The first hula is about the strong family ties which is appropriate at this Christmas time. Another hula is about our birds that gives us the affirmation of our connections to the sea, river, streams and rains, all which are  necessities of life!

You also teach hula – what do your students get out of learning it? I teach under the mentorship and guidance of my kumu (teacher) Blaine Kamalani Kia. Our school is called Halau Ka Waikahe Lani Malie, (The Calm Heavenly Flowing Waters). Our students learn the two styles of hula both ancient and modern and the songs and chants that accompany the hula. We teach the responsibilities of having this knowledge and to share with love and compassion.

What else do you do when you’re not dancing? I am an actor and filmmaker. I work as an actor in both New Zealand and Australia and am currently working on film projects that I am endeavouring to get off the ground next year.