Ellen Castillo
Ellen Castillo

WAIMANALO, HAWAII – Ellen Kuuleialohapoinaole Pukaikapuaokalani Castillo, a well-known Kumu Hula from Waimanalo, Oahu, who headed Pukaikapuaokalani Hula Halau, has died. She was 74.

Castillo started teaching hula in her garage in Waimanalo more than 50 years ago. As more students joined the halau, Castillo opened a studio in Kailua.

In 1972, the second year of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, Castillo’s halau entered the competition, and the halau has entered the prestigious statewide hula competition every year until last year.

Her dancers placed in many competitions including the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, its Miss Aloha Hula Contest in Hilo and the Queen Liliuokalani Keiki Hula Competition on Oahu.

Over the decades, she taught hula, Tahitian and other Polynesian dances to five generations of girls and women on Oahu’s windward side. Many of her students returned years later with their daughters and granddaughters.

Castillo also taught hula and Hawaiian culture and tradition in schools in Kailua and Waimanalo.

An elegant, graceful and expressive dancer, Castillo studied under some of Hawaii’s most respected Na Kumu Hula including Aunty Bella Richards and Aunty Lani Kalama.

Castillo’s halau was named for her grandmother, whose name “Pukaikapuaokalani” translates to “seashell flower of heaven.”

Castillo leaves behind her husband Henry, her sons Nolan, Derek and Keola, her daughter-in-laws Janice Shimizu and Raydean Hopu, as well as 11 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Castillo’s legacy will be carried on through her family and the thousands of girls she taught hula and Hawaiian culture and tradition to.

Her family is making service arrangements, the details of which will be released later in the week.

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