Rhythms of Hawaii have home in PasadenaWhen Kas Keolapua...


September 03, 1995|By Laura Barnhardt

Rhythms of Hawaii have home in Pasadena

When Kas Keolapua Nakamura's hula school went to the World Hula competition in Honolulu, the announcer introduced them as being "from Pasadena, Md. -- of all places."

Yet, Mrs. Nakamura's students have competed in elite competitions all over Hawaii, where hula is regarded as a sport, a performing art and a way to preserve local history.

A Baltimore native, Mrs. Nakamura, 50, learned hula while stationed at Pearl Harbor Naval Base when she was 28. After taking lessons for several years, she competed in Hilo's Merrie Monarch Festival, the Olympics of hula dancing.

She began teaching full time in 1990. She takes 25 to 30 students of all ages each year. Some come from as far away as New Jersey for her instruction.

"There's more to hula than dance. There's a whole culture involved," says Mrs. Nakamura, whose husband, Les, is a native Hawaiian.

Typically, Mrs. Nakamura's performing group does 50 shows a year,and she usually takes a group to Hawaii for competition.

Additionally, the Nakamuras' Hawai'i Aloha Lu'au Services offer Hawaiian catering, hula-grams and other luau and party entertainment.

But teaching is Mrs. Nakamura's real love.

"Hula stays with you throughout your life because hula teaches acceptance of others and harmony in life. It's not just dancing -- there's a life force in hula."

@ Friends, neighbors, patients, everybody asks Dr. Mack Mitchell whether it is safe to drink, how much to drink, almost any question you can think of about drinking. He isn't afraid to tell them what he knows, which is a lot, and yes, he has a drink or two himself on occasion.

The 42-year-old chairman of the department of medicine at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center has been researching the subject since 1982, when he was hired at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to direct its alcohol research center. (He gave up research at Hopkins, but still teaches there.)

At the same time, as vice president and now president of the Baltimore-based Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation, he has been instrumental in seeding much of the most important research in the United States and Canada on the sometimes-good effects of alcohol on health.

The foundation mostly finances pilot projects, awarding about $2 million annually. After giving their money, the brewers have no say in which research projects are funded.

Dr. Mitchell says applications are assessed by scientists who also review grant proposals for the Nation al Institutes on Health.

Since incorporating in 1982, the foundation has taken pains to separate the source of funding from the conduct of the research, he says. It has supported studies exploring both the good and ill effects of alcohol on people's health and behavior, including research on why people drink excessively and the effects of heavy drinking on the body.

"Because of this, I think we have avoided potential allegations of bias," he says. "Although I don't think you can ever avoid them completely. You just look for the best quality research. The truth is the truth, you can't change the facts."

Dr. Mitchell isn't opposed to doctors prescribing alcohol in moderation -- two or three glasses a day for men and one to two glasses for women -- but acknowledges it's a very controversial issue in the medical community.

"I can only say that doctors may prescribe things -- medications, lifestyles -- that are a lot less certain than this one."


Patricia Meisol

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