Bay Area hula master Patrick Makuakāne knows how to put on a show.
“I Mua: Hula in Unusual Places,” his troupe Ha Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu’s program filling San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts this weekend, is a joy from start to finish, and his enthusiasm for hula — and its endless possibilities for expansion — is infectious.
There’s not a grass skirt or cliché to be found the two-and-a half hour, multi-media variety performance showcasing some two dozen male and female dancers accompanied by fun music of all kinds (with great impeccable live players), video, and Makuakāne’s irresistible narration.
Things opens and close on a jazzy note, with women in long red gowns (awesome costumes throughout by Malia King) swaying to “Crazy He Calls Me” at the outset, and the entire group lindy-hopping to the sounds of the swinging nine-piece, white-jacketed Hawaiian jazz band Kahulanui finishing things off on a wild note.
There’s plenty of humor, from the Myrtle K. Hilo tune “Will You Love Me When My Carburetor Is Busted?” to video of the troupe’s visit to New York, where the dancers’ public performance on the steps of the New York Public Library was foiled; they were asked to leave. But they prevailed in Times Square, and the footage is fantastic.
Other fascinating video illustrates the magic made at Burning Man in Black Rock Desert. On a different, equally intriguing note, Makuakāne shows film of him teaching hula to prisoners at San Quentin. The tough guys are not only into doing the delicate movement (they share thoughts on it), they’re good.
On Saturday night, opera singers Maya Kherani and Molly Mahoney sang “The Flower Duet” from “Lakme” while five dancers outfitted in magnetic magenta gowns flowed to the music.
While “Hula in Unusual Places” has a focus on innovation, tradition isn’t forgotten, either. Award-winning Kupaoa, the husband-and-wife-guitar-vocal duo of Kellen and Līhau Paik, bring a beautiful touch of true Hawaiian music to the party.
Ha Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu
Where: Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., S.F.
When: 3 p.m. Oct. 28
Tickets: $15 to $40