Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai'i, Mr. Makuakāne began dancing at the age of 13 and went on to study with some of Hawai'i's most recognized hula masters, including John Keola Lake and Robert Cazimero.
In 2000, he began intensive traditional studies with hula master Mae Kamāmalu Klein in Hawai'i and, after three years, achieved the recognized status of kumu hula (hula master). This achievement culminated in a traditional 'uniki 'ailolo graduation ceremony and connects Mr. Makuakāne to a hula lineage stretching back for generations. His studies were made possible by funding from a prestigious two-year Irvine Fellowship in Dance.
Mr. Makuakāne has received numerous awards for his choreography, including several Isadora Duncan Dance Awards (“Izzies”). In 2006, he received a lifetime achievement award from the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival.
- NACF Artist Fellowship (2014): Awarded by the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation (NACF) to nurture greater study, reflection, experimentation and discovery.
- Hewlett & Gerbode Foundations Choreographer Commissioning Award (2012): Award from The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for the creation of “Ka Leo Kanaka” (one among only six California dance artists to be honored).
- National Museum of the American Indian (2010): Grant award in support of the Kapalakiko Project, a dance theater work celebrating the long historical connection between Hawai’i and San Francisco.
- Individual Artist Commission (2009): A grant award from the San Francisco Arts Commission for the creation of “Kumulipo,” dance narratives based on an epic and iconic Hawaiian creation chant composed long before European contact.
- Creative Work Fund Commission (2008): Creative Work Fund grant supporting a commission by the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival for the creation of "Maui Turning Back the Sky."
- Dance: Creation to Performance (2005): Grant award from Dance/USA and The James Irvine Foundation for the creation and public sharing of “Daughters of Haumea” (one among only twenty California dance artists to be honored).