When your heart is in the right place

I used to think that my home in Hawai’i was a far away place. Every time I would leave the islands and return to my other home in Manhattan, I would cry like a baby – literally. My family and friends would gather at the airport terminal and lavish me with their beautiful flowered leis, always my favorites – pikake, puakenikeni, tuberose and maile! After hugging and kissing up until the very last moment, I would always be the last to board the plane with shaking knees and a severe tummy ache. It was a painful feeling of being ripped away from the only place that made me feel safe, comforted and truly happy.

As the plane would pull away, I’d keep my eyes planted on my loved ones who would stand there at the gate waiting until we were gone. In flight and heading towards the east coast, I would stare out of the window and watch Diamond Head grow smaller and smaller until the crater completely disappeared. Once out of sight, I would cry some more while whiffing the sweet smelling flowers that were draped around my neck. The more I whiffed the harder I’d cry. Other passengers on board, whether tourist or local resident, would always ask me if I was heading back to college.

As I was too upset to talk to anyone, I’d simply nod my head saying yes. Provoked by the question, I’d think to myself, “Gee, the real reason I’m heading back to the Big Apple is way worse than going back to college!” At least in college there is structure and regimented schedules. As I was still in search for a vocal recording career in the music industry, especially in New York City, my life was filled with an ongoing series of unpredictable and chaotic situations. Pounding the cruel pavement. Stretching every single penny, forget about the whole dollar! I was struggling to fit into a place where talent had nothing to do with financial success. Where kindness and honesty were mistaken for weakness and stupidity. A world beyond recognition! No pretty flowers to smell. No friendly strangers to smile at.

Scott's favorite outdoor activity is horseback riding. When in Hawai'i, you will find him on the trails in Kaua'i, Maui or the Big Island.

I often questioned myself wondering why I left the islands. Was this price too overwhelming to pay? Is anything in life, including my musical dream, so worth giving up everything you know of? Starting all over again from the very beginning? Learning to survive in a fast, cold and unforgiving environment? Then winter came, and my skin chapped and pealed in freezing weather that dropped below zero.

As each year flew by, sixteen of them to date, I have grown to appreciate the journey of it all. As my precious mom always put it, “Life’s more about the journey than the actual destination itself.” Now I know what she meant. What I have learned is priceless! The world is as you see it. I now smile to mean faces in the big city, and believe it or not, more than likely, they do smile back! I’ve developed many, many, many supportive and trusted friends for life. I behold family units that I can count on, at any hour, on any given day. I am fortunate to now be the one who can help someone else get his foot in the door of the music business. My skin is enduring the winter seasons now that I have discovered how Vaseline is way more effective than the $100 bottles of designer lotions.

My family and true friends in Hawai’i keep me close at hand as they remain intimate and involved in my life, and me in theirs. I’ve come to find that no matter how far… the distance or the miles… you’re never too far away from the ones you love, and the ones who truly love you back.

Feeling close with a ‘place’ or with ‘someone’ is really about what lives in your heart each and every day – as distance, great distance can be felt from the very ones who are physically standing right in front of you. Aloha is more than a mere gesture. Aloha is a feeling.


Scott Katsura Talkin' Story

The views that I express are my own. I do not speak on behalf of AIRTIME Recording Company, Inc. or Katsura Productions. You are welcome to comment on my articles or to suggest a topic that you'd like me to discuss.

"Pi’ilani Kumukù’ai"

From the oceans of New Orleans, to the shores of Hawai'i nei, Auntie Fran is spreading waves of Aloha everywhere.

My heart has been touched, and my spirit has been moved by the grace of Auntie Fran Claire Price. Beyond her 'lovely hula hands' and deep passion for the dance of hula, Auntie Fran has showered upon me the truest meaning of Aloha. During my visit to Ferndale, at her hometown in Michigan, I encountered a multitude of beautiful people who were overflowing with such Aloha Spirit! I witnessed warm and loving people like Diane, Sam, Sarah, Jackie, Pam, Brian, Denise, Jill and so many others, totally breaking the 'rough and tough' Detroit persona stereotype. I am honored and blessed to present to the entire world, an incredible woman with a sincere heart 'the size of the Big Island'. Mahalo nui loa Auntie Fran for gathering so many people in the name of Aloha! May we forever celebrate life, mele and hula together!

Biography written by Fran Price Website:

Fran Price started dancing in September 1970, at the age of 32, when her husband, Jack, encouraged her to get out of the house and do something special for herself – take a well-deserved reprieve from her daily responsibilities of housekeeping and child-rearing. She found a Hawaiian dance class through the Ferndale Adult Community Education, just two blocks from her home.

Fran found it challenging in the beginning, particularly the timing aspect. But with practice, persistence, and a burning desire, her talent blossomed as did her passion for Polynesian dance and culture. Moreover, it proved to be very therapeutic-- not only physically, but emotionally and mentally, helping her heal after the loss of her eldest son a few years earlier.

After 10 years as a dedicated student, demonstrating patience and a special ability to help the senior members of the class, she was asked to take over as teacher. Resisting the notion at first but prodded by her supportive classmates, she agreed on the condition that she would teach strictly the beginners class and only until the instructor returned from her leave of absence. That was the start of her long, ongoing career in hula.

As time went on, her reputation grew, and she was invited to teach at several locations in the metropolitan Detroit area. Her halau gradually expanded to the five that are currently active.

For most of the year, "Auntie" Fran teaches five days a week. On Sundays, she works with the Keiki at her home, then later holds practice for her professional troupe there. Monday evenings her halau moves to a nearby school gymnasium, where she teaches a family (mother-daughter) class, beginner and intermediate classes.

Tuesday mornings she spends with her seniors at the St. Patrick's Senior Center in Detroit. Then it's a 20-mile trek across town for family and adult classes in Livonia on Wednesday evenings. Finally, her halau relocates to a recreation center in Redford Township for class and practice with a second group of seniors. She a very busy little gypsy kumu who puts many miles (something like 15,000!) on her mini-van each year, between shows and "halau hopping".

Her students range in age from 3 to 93, although her youngest was actually her granddaughter, Pamela, who donned a tiny grass skirt and danced in her first recital at the tender young age of 15 months. Watching Pam grow up and develop into a versatile and accomplished dancer has been one of one of Fran’s greatest joys.
Many students travel great distances to take part in her classes. For instance, one year a Hawaiian family (grandparents, adult children, and grandchildren) residing in Belleville, Michigan, learned of Auntie Fran’s excellent reputation and drove an hour each way to attend classes to prepare for a performance at a family reunion in Hawaii.

Auntie Fran always emphasizes her three main teaching goals: Exercise, Knowledge and FUN. Focusing on basics to build a solid dance foundation, she teaches hula steps to contemporary pop/rock songs showing how to create a line dance to any music. She teaches both English and Hawaiian names for steps/movements and points out the cultural similarities and differences among the Polynesian Islands: Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, and Tahiti.
Each student in the halaus automatically becomes a member of Auntie Fran's Ohana (family). She truly believes that each and every one is special and makes all feel so, starting with learning their name as soon as possible as well as bit of background in order to establish a friendly interpersonal relationship.

Every June, the halaus come together for a Polynesian dance recital which is open to the public. In her 25 years of teaching, Auntie Fran has never missed coordinating this annual event, having to perform twice with her arm in cast from injuries sustained in artistic dance roller skating injuries – a long-time recreational activity she has since given up for the sake of self-preservation.

As for her own hula education, Fran has attended every semi-annual "Dancers’ Dream Weekend" seminar in Indianapolis, Indiana since 1988. Her teachers have included prominent members of the Polynesian dance community: Kaui Brandt, Bill Charmin, Charlene Shelford-Lum, Pulefano Galea`I, Chinky Mahoe, Karo Mariteragi, Olana Ai, Ellen Gay Delarosa, Cathy Teriipaia, Leina`ala Heine, Sonny Ching, Keali`I Reichel, and Moon Kauakahi (of the Makaha Sons). But Keith Awai has left the biggest impression on her and has most influenced the style and technique she dances and teaches.

Already having many successful years of teaching behind her, Fran often had moments of feeling overwhelmed while learning and mastering new dances, not to mention the complex Hawaiian language, terminology and pronunciation. She frequently questioned new instruction, styles and techniques, wanting to be sure of their authenticity before sharing them at her halaus. During bedtime prayers during a seminar weekend in November of 1989, Fran asked God for special help in this area. Just before drifting off to sleep, she felt a presence and had a ethereal vision of a masculine Polynesian figure standing before her. The entity seemed to gently settle into her being. From then on, she felt a divine guidance energizing her Aloha Spirit and enabling her to understand and discern information about hula with more certainty and confidence. Never revealing his name, Fran's Hawaiian "Spirit Guide" remained with her until August of 2002. While swimming with friends in Sandy Beach on Oahu during her second trip to Hawaii, she was perilously pulled by a strong undertow and nearly drowned. Just before being rescued, she felt her faithful Spirit Guide leave her body and return to his tropical home. This powerful spiritual experience has been a very special blessing in her life. She still possesses and relies upon the "knowing" he instilled in her.

Auntie Fran has amassed a treasure-trove of costumes, implements, jewelry, and accessories most of which she has made herself. From grass/Pau/Maori skirts and poi balls to flower leis/heis/belts/hairclips and elaborate Tahitian belts and helmets, she generously shares her hand-crafted costume pieces with all her students. She tries to make hula an affordable activity for everyone, never requiring her students to make a big financial investment. Storing everything in her modest-sized suburban home doesn't leave much space for her husband who often jests about moving into the garage for more elbowroom.

Accented with colorful costumes and a variety of music, her shows are especially popular at nursing and retirement homes, where her student group "The Pi'ilani Wahines Ohana" average 50 performances per year. Each year the show content changes to reflect the dances performed at the prior annual recital. This venue is very dear to her heart as she considers it her gift to God. If she can make at least one person smile, feel important and loved, she knows she has served Him well. It is also an opportunity to encourage the elderly to exercise through gentle hula movements.

Her professional group, "The Polynesian Fantasy Dancers", which she cofounded with two friends, Kelly (Robinson) Jones and Donna (Strasser) Vincent, in 1978 has expanded to 12 members. Every so often, an audience member, curious about her accent, will ask which Hawaiian island she is from. She is a "native" of New Orleans, Louisiana.

She and her student and professional groups also dance at churches, private homes, country clubs – anywhere Hawaiian entertainment is wanted. Many area schools have asked her to teach assemblies of children about Polynesian culture and dance. The kids eagerly participate in the basic hula lessons. Inside of one short year, Fran does 70 to 80 performances, including many for charitable events -- all of these are above and beyond her regular teaching/practice schedule.

It’s hard to believe that Fran thinks she is (or at least was) timid, shy and a bit insecure by nature. Until about six years ago, a wig was an essential part of her costume. The long, dark locks seemed to transform her into a vivacious and extroverted Hawaiian entertainer.

Encouraged by friends who truly admire her lovely natural silvery gray hair and bolstered by the mental and spiritual confidence developed over time and with experience, she gradually "weaned" herself off the wig. Today she is more effervescent and outgoing than ever and enjoys "being herself" in front of an audience—no longer needing the security blanket of false tresses.

Among her happiest hula memories are her "Three Generations" performances, dancing with her daughter, Jackie, and granddaughter, Pam. Fran’s second granddaughter, Karsyn, made her stage debut when she was just seven months old. Now two years old, she has learned some basic hula moves and enjoys dancing with with implements, especially ka la’au sticks and cowry shells. She will be a good influence on her new baby sister, Skylar, who was born in August 2005. For several years, Fran’s son Russell, served as Master of Ceremonies at many performances and grandson, Paul, created and maintains her remarkable website. Hula is truly a Price family affair.

Auntie Fran’s largest audience was a crowd of about 6000 people at "Senior Power Day" in Canada. She has also had the honor of meeting and performing for Don Ho when he visited the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

Fran enjoys choreography, particularly novelty numbers such as : "North to Alaska" (country western), "Waltz With Me Daughter of Mine" (at her daughter Kathy's wedding) and "After The Lovin' " (to celebrate her daughter’s pregnancy). Her hula interpretation of "The Lord's Prayer" reflects her deep faith and prevailing spiritual nature.

The friendships Fran has made over her years in hula are what she prizes most. Two special relationships include those with Schantel Taylor and Keikilani Hewlett who Fran considers her “H_nai” (adopted Hawaiian daughters). Fran became fast friends with each of them when they called her on the telephone after discovering her ad in the Yellow Pages. Schantel, a professional Hawaiian entertainer who has danced internationally, provided Fran with invaluable business advice and guidance. Keikilani recently invited Fran to join her on a solemn trip back to her native Hawaii for the burial of her mother at Kani ‘Ohe Old Hawaiian Cemetery. Fran became a grandmother figure for Keikilani’s young daughter, Ahono (which means "strong foundation"), and was instrumental in teaching the child about her Hawaiian heritage, including the hula.

Polynesian dance has kept her body young and her mind sharp. She often recollects with amazement how, at the age of 62, she was able to 'ami down to the ground and do duck walks -- things she couldn't do at 30 years earlier!

Within the past couple of years, some exciting things have happened to Fran. She was included in a new book The Spirit of Hula by Shari 'Iolani Floyd Berinobis (published in Fall 2005) in which, halau from Hawai'i, the U.S. Mainland, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, and Mexico share photos and stories that celebrate the spirit of hula worldwide. Then she entered the "Miss Lovely Hula Hands 2005" Competition, sponsored by Hawaiian-Asian singer/song-writer, Scott Katsura. Among over 300 entrants in an international hula competition (excluding Hawaii), Fran was honored to have been chosen as one of the six semi-finalists.

Hula is as much a part of Fran's life as breathing, eating, and sleeping. When she's not teaching or practicing, she's performing, or making costumes, or planning shows, or tending to business paperwork or talking to clients or students. It's a seven-day-a-week commitment. With such a busy schedule plus managing the responsibilities of devoted housewife, mother, and grandmother, it’s not surprising that friends and family think she’s nothing short of "Wonder Woman"—"Paha’oha’o Wahine"!

Auntie Fran's love for hula radiates through her body and from her soul as she dances. And her enduring Aloha Spirit is like a warm hug from a loving aunt—so endearing to her students and audiences.

SEE: Pictures of Scott's Detroit Trip
VISIT: Auntie Fran Hula Website

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