Roselle Bailey – Kumu Hula Goes International
By Susan Halas
Many Mauians are familiar with Roselle Lindsey Bailey. The Lahaina native is a highly regarded performer, teacher and chanter. As founder of Ka Imi Naauao O Hawaii Nei she’s taught Hawaiian dance, language and culture to generations of students throughout the state.
But how many are aware that twice a year this globe-trotting instructor flies across two oceans to give lessons to devoted students in three European countries?
For the past 12 years the Paukukalo resident and her husband leave the Valley Isle behind to teach in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
Seeing the world is nothing new for this well-traveled lady. Married to husband Jim for over 50 years, she’s accompanied him while he worked as an engineer in places as far away as Iraq, Iran, Netherlands and Bangladesh; and as close to home as Hilo, Kauai and Olowalu. Viewing the world map on display at their home it’s easy to see these folks get around.
Looking back on her own start in the world of hula, she recalled that her first instructor was Auntie Emma Sharpe in Lahaina. “I started when I was 4,” she said. As she grew older her own parents Pua and Ned Lindsey helped her learn not only Hawaiian dance, but also about the language and culture of the islands.
She was also fortunate to study with two legendary teachers: Auntie Edith Kanakaole and Aunt Kaui Zuttermeister.
By 1960, living in Hilo, Mrs. Bailey began her own teaching career. That career, like her marriage, has now spanned five decades.
Along the ways she’s been involved with many aspects of the Hawaiian experience. She took an early and active role in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. She was one of the first to use Hawaiian imagery extensively as a teaching and fund raising tool during the 1970s, when she worked with photographer Boone Morrison on Kauai.
Her involvement with teaching abroad came about quite by accident.
“One of my former students in Kauai went to Europe to teach lomi lomi. In her teaching she used hula and chants and she talked about me. Some of her students organized into a group and one of them came to Kauai, where we met. She asked me, ‘Would you like to go to Germany to teach in Heidelberg?’”
“I just lit up…. my eyes…. my ears, ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Yes, I would.’ All my life I’d heard about Heidelberg, the operas, the books. I thought the opportunity was really exciting. Less than a year later I was giving classes in Germany.”
From there, she explained, “It just grew. The lady who organized the Germany classes asked if I wanted to go to Switzerland; and then it expanded to a group in Austria. We go twice a year: Spring and Fall. Many of my students find their way to Hawaii. They come and visit us here.”
This year the number of Roselle Bailey’s students who find their way to Maui is about to get significantly larger.
On June 2, Ka Imi will host “Recalling Hawaii.” This is a gigantic Hawaiian dance and music extravaganza featuring over 80 performers in a multimedia event at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center.
The show has already played to sold-out houses in Heidelberg, Basel and Kauai; but for the Maui audience it will be a rare opportunity to see the master herself perform along with students from around the state and around the world.
The planning is well underway for the mid-year performance. According to Mrs. Bailey, “Everybody is rehearsing in their own country. They’ll all wind up here by the first of June.” Certainly Mauians are in for a treat.
And what’s coming next after that?
“Well if everything works out we’re hoping to take it to the United Kingdom, and maybe even the Isle of Wight. Queen Emma had ties there you know.”