The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel hosted the 25th Hula O Na Keiki solo hula competition November 13-14, 2015. The hotel, located beachfront on the west side of Maui, bustled with energy as 14 keiki (children) hula dancers from Maui, O’ahu and Japan competed for awards and prizes. Through performing chants and hula dances, the children learned traditional Hawaiian culture and arts. On Saturday, I walked through the craft fair on the hotel grounds and enjoyed an ‘ono plate lunch while musicians played on the outdoor stage. To get a better understanding of the cultural event, I met with several of the key coordinators.
“The real focus of this festival is the growth of the keiki,” Ka’anapali Beach Hotel’s General Manager Mike White said. “The first day is spent with the judges interviewing every one of the haumana (students). The haumana are required to explain every piece of their costume and the significance of the choice.” White, who celebrated his 30th anniversary as the GM of the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel during the weekend, described the pride he has in the keiki who come to compete. “I’m not a judge, I’m not an aficionado, but there are times when you have someone dancing that is kind of going through the motions, but not making the most of every motion. That’s the difference, the crispness and the energy that they put into it. For me, that’s what it’s all about. What makes it special is to watch these kids perform in ways that are just really wonderful.”
Head judge and 19-year-veteran of the festival Hokulani Holt explained to me her favorite part of the weekend. “I enjoy the interviews because it is a time to really hear how the kumu hula (teachers), as well as each of the performers feel about what they are doing.” Holt has seen past winners of the competition come back to as kumu hula. Na Kumu Haunani Paredes of Halau Kekuaokalaaualailiahi, a former Miss Hula O Na Keiki, returned this year with two students who went on to win “Overall Wahine” and “Overall Kane.”
It was so wonderful to meet with amazing leaders in our community who are passionate about this long-standing event for the keiki. I especially loved chatting with the director of Hula O Na Keiki, Dee Coyle. I asked her why she does the job of producing this event and she paused and thoughtfully answered. “I do it because I see the sense of accomplishment in the eyes of the children. They practice so hard. Everyone invests so much time. The child is going to learn from their teacher. With the kumu comes all the other brothers and sisters of hula who are going to support this child. This child also has family. Then you have the parents and the aunties and uncles and brothers and sisters supporting him. There is a whole community that surrounds one child, just to come to this competition. To see them finally on stage, and for us we see their names on paper and then when we finally see them here…and to see them dance,” said Coyle.
It’s pretty amazing. I can’t wait for next year.
For a full list of winners please visit http://www.kbhmaui.com/hawaii-culture/event-details