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Kumu hula Rae Fonseca dies at 56 on Oahu

Rae Fonseca and his Halau Hula O Kahikilaulani at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, May 2009. Photography by Dan and Lin Dzurisin | Special to Hawaii 24/7

More photos by Dan and Lin Dzurisin

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Contributing Editor

Less than 24 hours after the death of Dottie Thompson, the Big Island lost yet another hula standout in kumu hula Rae Kahiki Fonseca, aka Ray Fonseca. He was 56.

News of his sudden death first traveled across the Big Island and through hula circles Saturday afternoon. Fonseca reportedly collased following a performance at the Lei O Lanikuhonua Hula Festival at Ko Olina and was pronounced dead at an area hospital. It is believed he had a heart attack.

With his Halau Hula O Kahikilaulani of Hilo, Fonseca was a perennial front runner at the Merrie Monarch Festival for the last three decades, winning numerous awards. Just last year, the wahine of Halau Hula O Kahikilaulani took second place in wahine kahiko and third in wahine overall.

The halau is scheduled to participate in next month’s 47th annual Merrie Monarch Festival.

In 1980, he established Halau Hula O Kahikilaulani. He was given the name Kahikilaulani by his own kumu hula, the late hula master and festival founder George Naope.

“Laulani” was added to his hawaiian name “Kahiki.” In essence, “Kahikilaulani” (the staff of heaven) soon became “Halau Hula O Kahikilaulani”.

Fonseca will be best remembered for his dedicating his life to living and preserving the Hawaiian culture.

Halau Hula O Kahikilaulani appeared at a concert with Cyril Pahinui and the Kaimu Sons at Palace Theatre in Hilo about six weeks ago.

Services for kumu Rae Fonseca will be held 1-3 p.m, Friday (April 16) at Sangha Hall in Hilo.

12 Responses to “Kumu hula Rae Fonseca dies at 56 on Oahu”

  1. Laura Garcia says:

    On behalf of many of my friends and hula sisters from Mexico, I want to express our sadness for the loss of our Kumu Rae Fonseca. He was a
    founder of the path to know, respect, learn and love the Hawaiian culture in our country, Mexico. He and his teachings and Aloha will
    remain with us forever. God bless his soul.
    Laura Garcia

  2. Kamana’o was the Hawaian name given to me by Kumuhula Rae Kahikilaulani Fonseca at 1994 becuase I was always were asking questions.
    On that year Roselani Lopez Arriaga and me brought for 26 students Kumu Rae to teach Hula to our country (he already had come once with other three Kumuhula on 1991). From there halau Ka Pa Hula Lokelani started to bring yearly Kumuhula Kahikilaulani to Mexico to spread his teachings up to a point that he could attend at least more than 500 hundred students in a work of a month visiting diferent schools and halaus around our country.
    Time and circumstances took me apart from them by 2002 but with aloha I always try to keep his teachings to perpetuate his legacy.
    My heart is heavy and sad after knowing he has departed, but through his hula and teachings a part of him will always remain alive.

    Arturo Kamana’o Valero

  3. Mahalo dear kumu Ray:
    Thank you for sharing your lessons, your love and your life with Mexico.
    You’ll be forever in our hearts and in our learnings.
    Hula lives in Mexico.
    With love,
    Adriana Rojas & Marae hula estudio, Puebla Mexico.

  4. Aaron Guerra says:

    Kumu Rae Fonseca was the best hawaiian experience that i ever expected. He´ was an excelent teacher and a inspiration for any who learned with him. I dare to say that all the people in Queretaro Mexico who knew about Kumu Rae have sad feelings. God Bless Kumu Rae Fonseca for ever.

  5. Arturo kamana’o:
    You should be silent about your shame and respect the name of kumu Rae.

    • Adriana Rojas Ulalia says:

      Aloha Arturo Kamana’o!
      There are violent times in which the harmony between people is broken, but as time goes by, sentient beings can grow with experiences and knowledge and then comes the time to seek balance and recover the coherence between what one thinks, feels and does. This is how Arturo and I have made pono and with it, consolidated a friendship based on the love, respect and teachings of our beloved Kumu Rae. These words are written in your memory.

  6. Chantelle Kahakai says:

    You will be missed but forever in our hearts. I just want to thank you for joining us on Saturday March 20,2010 to attend the Lei O Lanikuhonua Hula Festival. It was a wonderful experience working with you and being able to chant with you. You will always be remember and never forgotten! We love you kumu Rae Fonseca. May you rest in peace!

  7. kika says:

    Only words of love and grateful for you kumu!
    You’ll always be remembered and in my heart… I’ll miss you SO MUCH…
    Well… the only thing i can do is keep on dancing and when teaching, do with love and dedication as you did! I hope that now everyone who names itself as a HULA DANCER OR TEACHER should be joined with the community as the big and grate FAMILY that we should be, supporting other dancers, teachers, halaus each other… as i suppose that Kumu would like to see…


    With LOVE: KIKA :)

  8. Breanna says:

    You will be greatly missed Uncle Rae but your memory will live on forever. Good luck to the girls in the halau at Merrie Monarch, your kumu will be there with you.

  9. Lena says:

    ‘Ae noho’i ua hala ‘o Anakala Ray, aka e ola ana na mea oia i a’o ai. Ka la I hala ai no ‘o Anakala Ray, ua ue noho’i na akua, i ka hala ana no Anakala Ray, Anake Doddie ame Anakala George. Ae eha noho’i ka pu’uwai no ka hala ana i keia mau po’e i nui ma ka hula ana. aka aia lakou ma ka hale o ke akua ke nana nei ia makou a ha’i nei kakou e Holo Mua me ka hula. Moe pono Anakala Ray Anakala George ame Anake Doddie.

  10. ashley says:

    aww dis is so sad

  11. Vere Valero says:

    Aloha o e Kumu Rae, mahalo nui loa, always in mi heart,
    From México… 6 months… we miss you, so much.


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