From the outside, visitors can’t really tell what the newly-renovated two-story building in South Jakarta holds within its walls. Only on closer inspection, a wooden “Aloha” sign with two sea turtles gives an inkling of what awaits behind one of the doors.
The Hulala Studio, still in its soft opening phase, is a studio and small shop that celebrates all things Hawaiian. It is the fulfillment of a long-time dream for Ishan Odelia, an Indonesian-Taiwanese hula dance instructor who learned how to sway her hips to the sounds of the ukulele when she was studying in Japan.
“I always wanted to have my own Hawaiian-themed place,” Ishan said. Before she opened the doors to Hulala Studio in early May, Ishan held her hula classes in various dance studios across the city.
“I started to look around for a space in February and came across this one,” she added. “The location is good, it’s easy to reach.”
With renovations beginning in April, Ishan was able to begin teaching dance classes in May, but the shop was only added recently.
Here, Hawaii enthusiasts can find floral print skirts, quilts and shirts, as well as ukuleles, bags and other accessories like the typical Hawaiian flower garlands. Hula magazines are neatly arranged on a book shelf, alongside DVDs that feature previous performances of Ishan and her dance group.
“All the clothes are made and produced in Indonesia,” Ishan explained. “And the Hawaiian quilts are from Bali. The fabrics you can find here are quite similar to the ones in Hawaii.”
In the future, she added, she wants to expand the range of products and add home- and kitchenware to the list of products.
The dance studio itself is a spacious room, flooded with sunlight during the day, and with a mirrored wall on the right.
At the moment, Ishan teaches hula dance every day from Monday to Friday, and twice a month on Saturdays — more than ever before. “Generally, when people start to learn hula, they maybe start out joining my class once a week,” Ishan said. “But as they get into it, they thirst for more — some of my students even come four times a week.”
Since Ishan is the only hula dance instructor, she doesn’t want to add more classes. Instead, she opted to offer other courses in her studio as well, such as the ukulele class twice a week. Ishan said that she’d like to offer something different in her studio, classes and courses that one hardly finds anywhere else in Jakarta. “I have a feeling that the ukulele classes will become much bigger in the future,” Ishan said. Classes started last month. “I had to add another one because it grew so fast. It’s overflowing.”
“It is my friend from Hawaii who teaches how to play the ukulele here,” she added. “And it’s very casual, which makes it so appealing. The students all sit on the floor, with the teacher in the middle, it’s a really relaxed atmosphere.”
Besides hula and ukulele, Hulala Studio also offers two non-Hawaiian courses: Flamenco, the energetic and passionate dance from Spain, and Kindermusik for the little ones, a class that combines childhood music with movement. And this, Ishan said, is only the beginning, as she plans to add even more classes to the list, as soon as the fasting month is over.
Earlier this month, Ishan was invited by American cultural center @america to share a little bit about Hawaiian hula dance. It was a good experience, she said, because she met the local crowd, while so far, her students are predominantly Japanese expats. “The best thing about having my own studio is that I get to know so many interesting people, not only the hula crowd,” Ishan said.
“I also taught myself how to play a couple of songs on the ukulele,” she added with a smile.
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