Through Merrie Monarch Festival, hula has danced into the hearts of people worldwide

After being canceled for the first time in its nearly 60-year history, the anticipation for this year's Merrie Monarch Festival is at an all-time high.
Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 11:56 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - How is it that an ancient Hawaiian art created in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has a draw so powerful its chants are echoed by people around the globe?

Hula has indeed danced into the hearts of people just about everywhere. And that’s never more clear than when the Merrie Monarch Festival is underway.

[Read more: 2021 Merrie Monarch Festival television schedule: When and where to watch]

“Hula to me is my connection to nature,” said sensei Shin Tanaka, of Halau Keolakulanakila in Japan.

Added Kapuananiokekukui Namiko Takahashi Chan, of Halau Ka Lei Kukui Hiilani: “Hawaiian culture is not something I was born and bred in, but it’s a culture that I think, speaking from a Singaporean in Singapore, that the world can really look to and benefit from and learn from because the values.”

Araceli Garcia, of Hula o Kalehuamakanoe in Mexico, explained it this way:

“This is something that I really love as much as I love my culture, yes, just as much. I think that’s why people all around the world feel this. It’s like because you are not dancing just for the dance itself, but because all of the things that you are feeling and knowing inside about this dance.”

Gail Roberts, of Halau Hula o Manoa in Italy, said: “If you ask me what my favorite hula is, it’s always the last one I’ve learned, that I’m working on, you know, I enjoy it all.”

Merrie Monarch is the biggest stage for hula in the world.

The festival is being held this year with strict COVID protocols, including no spectators.

But excitement and anticipation remain high. People from all over the world are planning to watch the Hilo event, which will make its return to television Thursday.

The best-of-the-best halau ― composed of men and women from Hawaii and the continental US ― are handpicked to compete in the festival’s three categories.

In 2020, because of the pandemic, the festival was called off for the first time in its 57-year history.

That’s made this year’s competition all the more special, no matter where you live.

“This is powerful because it speaks to your heart, it speaks to your spirit,” said Chan. “It’s really not just about the physical motion. It’s a deeply spiritual journey that we share with the people.”

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