HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu’s largest Bon Dance is returning on Saturday. One person who will be there?
An 88-year-old Oahu woman, who continues to pass on the Japanese culture and traditions.
“Japanese dancing you do not show your thumb,” said Betty Dela Cuesta, Bon Dance teacher.
Dela Cuesta talks about the dos and don’ts of Bon Dance.
Betty explained, “this is what you call going forward, this is what you call going back.”
She calls it simple little movements that carry significant meaning, for a longtime tradition.
The 88-year-old is getting ready for the Moiliili Summer Fest, which includes the popular Bon Dance. She started teaching it nearly 60 years ago.
“I love the culture, that’s why I went into dancing.,” said Dela Cuesta.
It became personal when one of her children unexpectedly died from a brain aneurysm.
Dela Cuesta said, “because I knew in Japanese style, when the deceased pass away, every year during Obon season, they come to Earth to visit and I feel that my daughter is here, visiting me.”
She has taught numerous students, but five years ago, had to stop. After back and knee surgeries, she can no longer dance. So one of her grandchildren stepped into the role.
“I think the most important thing she’s taught me about Bon Dance is to be in it. That the culture is really in it. That it’s so important to keep it alive.” explained granddaughter Lydia Morikawa.
Dela Cuesta, who is a retired secretary, still helps with the choreography. But the younger generation is adding their own twist.
“We use more modern songs, we’ll modify some of the motions to be a less traditional,” Morikawa said.
Betty used to sew all the kimonos for the dancers. She was forced to cut back on that as well, but still makes happi coats. She said life is short and advises kupuna to keep moving forward.
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“But I tell the kupuna to love life, love what you’re doing, by all means, no matter how old you are, age is just a number,” Dela Cuesta said.