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Dance/Movement Therapy Alumna Brings Indigenous Hawaiian Dance to Campus

December 2, 2013

“Makia!” Emily Nussdorfer chanted loudly while rocking forward and rolling her arms back and forth like an ocean wave. “Mana wa,” she continued, repeating the same gesture. Nussdorfer, a 2001 Creative Arts Therapies Program graduate, led participants in an Indigenous Hawaiin Dance workshop on November here on the Center City Campus in Stiles Hall. Nussdorfer lived in Hawaii for months, studying the traditional dances, movements and songs of the Hawaiian Islands.

Emily Nussdorfer

During her workshop, which she repeated once on Main Campus and once in Center City, she shared some of the historical and spiritual significance of these indigenous dances, and instructed participants as they performed a peaceful and elegant repetitive dance. The routine was structured around the 7 sacred mantras, or principles, of the Huna Kapua tradition. Nussdorfer chanted the principles- words like “Makia” and “Mana wa”- and asked participants to repeat the mantras after her as they performed the corresponding movements. Individuals who were unable to attend in person had the option of streaming the workshop live from the University’s website.

After the instruction portion of the workshop, participants ate delicious falafel, hummus, pita and salad while watching professional Hawaiian dancers perform in a DVD presentation.

Nussdorfer’s two Indigenous Hawaiian Dance workshops were sponsored by the Drexel University Student Center for Inclusion & Culture, which supports the University’s commitment to being a Welcoming, Inclusive, Respectful, Engaging and Diverse (WIRED) Community. The event was part of Drexel’s Native American History Month activities.

Native Hawaiians emigrated from Polynesia and were ruled by a monarchy until 1893. The word Hawai’i is derived from ha, which means “breath of life,” and wai, which means “water.” There are seven basic principles of Hawaiian spirituality, which Nussdorfer taught in her workshop:

Ike: Awareness; all systems are arbitrary; the world is what you think it is

Kala: Freedom, limitlessness; all things are connected; forgiveness is the key

Makia: Focus; everything is energy; energy flows where attention goes

Mana wa: Centered in the Now; everything is relative; NOW is the moment of power

Aloha: Unconditional love; everything is alive, responsive and aware; to love is to be happy with

Mana: Spiritual strength; everything has power; all power comes from within

Pono: Healing; there is always another way to do anything; effectiveness is the measure of truth