An overwhelmed Maui audience showed their appreciation of “LooChoo nu Kwa” with a standing ovation and shouts of “Hana Hou!”. People stood in their places and didn’t want to leave after the curtain came down, ending an emotional exchange between performers, theater staff, and audience. The night began with the Maui Ryukyu Matsuri Daiko entertaining, as the Maui Ryukyu Culture Group sold Okinawan dinner plates in the concession area. Rafute , Champuru and combination plates were available to help set the mood for the evening. An hour prior to the show, anxious Mauians pressed against the doors of the theater in anticipation. “Wow, the people so excited, de stay all stuck against the glass doaz. Aftah we waz pau da welcome serifu, de waz all hoka”, said Keith Shimabukuro, one of the Ukwanshin performers. The doors opened promptly at 6:30 pm and everyone emptied out of the concession area to get settled in for the show.
As the lights dimmed and our narrator, Jamie Oshiro, appeared, she was greeted with a thunderous applause from the audience. “I was speechless. I just felt all the aloha from the audience. The excitement, anticipation, and their thanks for us being there. I had to hold back my tears.” she said. Jamie then bowed to the audience in thanks and also a kind of reverence for them being there, and for their warm welcome. Devin Kawamura took to the stage playing the grandson ,Kaleo. As his role unfolded, the audience began to become part of the story, to connect themselves to their own experiences…tears began to flow. They were being taken back to fond memories of our kupuna. As the curtain opened, the royal scene of the musicians in the LooChoo court costumes, was greeted with gasps of awe, at this rare sight. The dances began and the story continued with building of emotion and more tears. Janet Miyahira of Maui was one of the many in the audience who cried almost through the whole show. “It brought back so many memories. The story was exactly like my experience. My mother in-law passed away a month before my daughter’s graduation. It was like I was watching ourselves. I couldn’t believe it”, she said. As the show came to a close and the last bows were given, the entire audience stood to show their enjoyment of what had just taken place. As the curtains closed, numerous shouts of “Hana Hou!” could be heard, as the audience didn’t want the night to end. This was a first in Hawai`i’s stage history that a program of traditional, classical court dance and music of LooChoo was greeted with such warmth and appreciation. Much Mahalo goes out to the Maui Ryukyu Culture Group, Maui Ryukyu Matsuri Daiko, Maui Arts and Culture Center, and the many donors and supporters who helped to make the event possible. We cannot find the words to express our heartfelt mahalo. Stay tuned for photos of this performance.