From Shy to Butterfly


My photo of a magnet I keep on my refrigerator.

“You know how you can tell a good dancer from a not-so-good dancer? A good dancer will never show herself in a group; she will always dance like the group. But you take her out of the group, she will turn into a butterfly.”* I love this quote from Kumu Hula Kunewa Mook. It captures the dual roles of a hula dancer: to dance as one with her hula sisters and to dance as a captivating soloist when she’s alone.

My Hawaiian name, Kahilu, means “the reserved or shy one.” I’m not a natural performer, and I don’t crave the spotlight, but I have my own way of spotting butterflies on stage, and I know when I feel like one.

When I see a dancer’s face, whether she’s a line dancer or a soloist, and her face makes me feel that she’s “in the zone,” really feeling her dance, I see a butterfly. The face of a dancer loving her hula radiates beauty.

No matter which line I’m dancing in – first, last, or in between – I know when I feel like a butterfly. When I’m floating to the music, visualizing the words, sensing the spirits of the past, seeing the Hawaiian culture move forward, and feeling love emanating outward and upward toward heaven, I’m in the zone, and my face can’t hide it. This moment makes getting past my shyness worthwhile.

“A’a i ka hula, waiho ka hilahila i ka hale.” (When one wants to dance the hula, shyness should be left at home.”) To my fellow shy and reserved dancers who love hula more than they love their comfort zones, may you feel – and dance – like butterflies.

*Kunewa Mook, Kuma Hula, Hula Hālau ‘O Kamuela, as featured in “Hula: The Merrie Monarch’s Golden Celebration,” a documentary by Pacific Heartbeat, KVIE (2014).

© Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2015.


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