(eTN) – Ha, Breath of Life at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii may very well be 2010’s best new heritage show on the planet.
Unique aptly describes the new US$3 million Ha, Breath of Life evening spectacular. This is a must-see show.
This next generation of Polynesian performance can be understood by everyone, without need for narration. On giant sail boat screens is cast a unique form of animation: tapa art in motion, incorporating a storyline from an ancient Hawaiian legend, while over 100 dancers perform in unison before a backdrop of three erupting volcanoes.
After a 14-year run with Horizons, it took a giant leap of faith to embark on a totally new cultural presentation, but Ha has received rave feedback since opening night. Three years of planning went into its design. The theatre has a new catwalk system beneath the ceiling, three new projectors, and a million-dollar surround sound system that is the best and clearest in the world. Each section of the theatre has its own line array of five speakers.
Delsa Moe is the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Director of Cultural Presentations. “We are much larger than any other Polynesian production in the world,” said Moe. “Today’s visitor is very well-traveled; they want to see something that is different and unique.”
“One of my favorite scenes is at the very beginning when a baby is born, because I’m a mother of five, and when I hear the cry of a newborn it just melts my heart,” said Moe. “That first cry of life, when his proud father lifts him up, brings moving emotion to me.”
“When the baby, young mother, and father are stranded on an island and don’t know what they are going to do, and these kind strangers come up and provide for them … that’s how life should be,” said Moe. “And I like another scene toward the end of the show where the father is killed. His adult son [who] is now ready to become a father is crying over him. The spirit of the father who has just died rises up, and the ancestors appear to take him into the next life. That’s such a comforting scene to me. It’s very hopeful. Our ancestors are all around us; they’re right there helping us out. As Polynesians we acknowledge our ancestors in our daily activities, and to see it acted out on stage brings comfort, especially to those who have recently lost a loved one.”
“When we started planning the show, we assembled cultural committees comprised of experts from those particular cultures,” said Moe. “We asked them to list the core values indicative of their respective cultures. Then we asked them to decide which of these values they would want the world to know about them. As we began putting these core values together, we found many that were similar: respect for the land, the importance of family, sense of community, training children to be responsible adults. We saw a pattern develop, which formed the basis for the story.”
The show presents topics that everyone can relate to. Everybody is born. Everybody dies. Everybody has a life in between.
A cultural expert choreographs each show segment and coordinates with the costuming department to create authentic designs that are non-stressful to the environment. Synthetic fabrics allow for durable props so performers don’t have to strip the grounds of natural flora daily.
“We want the audience to leave feeling connected to the Polynesians. We do things in different ways, but we have the same hopes and dreams in life. We really are brothers and sisters,” said Moe. “We wanted the night show to pique the audience’s curiosity into returning during the day time to experience new learning and connection.”
The center hosted a group of local agents to see the show and received remarkable feedback. Moe said she received a message from one of them, and it read, “As a husband and wife, this show makes us want to be better parents.”
“The Polynesian Cultural Center exists not only to preserve and portray the cultures of Polynesia, but to provide university students the opportunity to work while in school, so they graduate debt-free,” said Moe. “The students return to their homelands with a degree and experience from working in Hawaii’s number one paid visitor attraction.”
Seth Casey from the PCC said, “From a personal perspective, I believe that Ha, Breath of Life has enormous value to those who are able to experience it. Not only culturally, but it ties in emotionally on several levels, so there is a lot the guests take away from participating in our show. I say participating, because it’s not just a passive viewing experience. Coupled with the experiences guests receive in the villages, we are trying to facilitate learning about our culture, being a part of our culture, and taking those values back home with them – see how those values can be incorporated into their every day lives. With that being said, I haven’t experienced all of the various attractions out in the world, but in my opinion, The Polynesian Cultural Center’s Ha, Breath of Life is one of the best new attractions for 2010 in the world.”
“One comment we hear over and over again is that the Polynesian Cultural Center is different and appealing because we are not actors playing a part,” said Moe. “When you go into the villages, it’s just Samoans being Samoans. It’s Maoris being Maoris. We don’t send them to a class where they learn to be Maori. You get the best parts of us, the warts, and everything else, because we are just real people trying to portray our culture. It’s genuine. When visitors come and they meet Polynesians, they find Polynesians to be very hospitable people by nature. There’s something about the way that Polynesians do things that endears them to people. I guess we are unassuming. We just like being who we are, we like people, and people can feel that sincerity. And we’re a simple folk; it doesn’t take much to make us happy, except food. Everything we do, if we want to be successful, has to have food. We might not live in the best houses, we might not even have a car, but we know how to treat people right, and people feel that.”
I’ve visited the Polynesian Cultural Center at least 25 times, and I always take away something inspirational. For me, it is the perfect heritage experience.
See http://www.polynesia.com/ha.html for further information.