PHOTO (& STORY) OF THE WEEK: ‘My Kumu and Hālau’

February 23, 2019, 9:09 AM HST
* Updated September 8, 3:37 PM
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(L–R, back row) Zoey, Shayne Pilago, Kumu Camille, Azie, (front row) Maila, Bailey, Trya, Ghanae and Kailee. PC: Lacy Pilago

Shayne Pilago, a fifth-grader at Pa‘auilo School, sent in this photo of Kumu Camille Mahuna and her Hālau Hula ‘O KealaKahi. Shayne’s mother, Lacy, took the stunning photo of her daughter, her teacher and friends.

“My kumu has been teaching for over 20 years and never charges her students,” said Shayne.

Shayne is 11 years old and just started dancing a year ago.

“My best friend Ghenaea danced hula and I wanted to dance, too, but I was too shy,” Shayne shared. “Then I met Kumu Camille and she made me love hula.”

The photo was taken at Shayne’s very first hula performance.


“The performance was held at the Civic in Hilo, where they hold the Merrie Monarch Festival,” Shayne said. “We got to compete against hālau from all around the island at the E Malama Mau I Ka Hula Festival.”


Shayne added, “We did not win or place, but that’s OK—we think we did awesome! I was a little nervous, but I can’t wait to do it again.”

The hālau practices every Wednesday at Pa‘auilo gym.

“When Shayne was little, she would watch hula dancers on TV and sit there mesmerized and would copy their movements,” said Lacy. “We took her to hula lessons when she was 6 and she cried because she was so shy! Years later, she wanted to try again. There is something special about Kumu Camille and Shayne has loved hula every since.”


Lacy said that hula has really made a big difference in her daughter’s self-confidence.

As fate would have it, another special and unexpected relationship is also part of this story…

“After a couple months of getting to know Kumu Camille, we found out we have a lot more in common than we knew,” said Lacy. “My dad’s sister, Phyllis, had a best friend who taught her cousin hula for years. This best friend also helped my Auntie Phyllis during her battle with cancer. She remained her best friend until she passed away in 2001.

Lacy found out just recently that Kumu Camille was that best friend.

“I think my aunt is looking down at this and smiling!” said Lacy. “It gives me goose bumps every time I think about how this all happened!”

Kumu Camille started Hālau Hula O KealaKahi many years ago when she lived on O‘ahu and taught hundreds of girls at a time. She later decided to move to the Big Island and teaches only small groups.

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