Nona Beamer


Winona Kapuailohiamanonokalani Desha Beamer was born in 1923 in Honolulu, daughter of Louise L. Walker and Francis Desha Beamer. She started studying hula with her grandmother at age three and became the foremost champion of the authentic hula, its chants, legends and mele. Educated at Kamehameha School, Colorado Women's College, Barnard, Columbia, UH and Sacramento State, she studied anthropology. When she began teaching at Kamehameha, she originated the Hawaiian Studies department there, which is a vital part of the curriculum today. She coined the term 'Hawaiiana.'

She did not like the direction the hula took mid-century (what is now called nightclub hula) and relentlessly pursued the ancient style, selling everything and taking a troupe on a tour which included appearances with Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians and a concert at Carnegie Hall--the first Hawaiian performers to appear there. She choreographed numbers for the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.

Back in Honolulu, she turned the Kamehameha School's song contests into authentic nights of artistry. She also became the family archivist, writing down thousands of chants, oral histories and geneaological data. She brought the 'Beamer method' of hula into the mainstream, and it is still taught and widely respected today. She has been one of the most beloved of teachers to generations.