Story by Rita Goldman | Photo courtesy of Ka‘anaapali Beach Hotel/Randy Jay Braun
I wasn’t the only non-Hawaiian in the ballroom of the Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel at last year’s Hula O Na Keiki, but I may have been the only one whose life doesn’t revolve around hula. Never mind that the dancers on stage were as young as seven; this was serious competition, performed before judges who are among the most revered teachers of Hawaiian language, music and hula in the Islands.
Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel has hosted Hula O Na Keiki since 1990, two years before the oldest eligible dancer in this year’s competition was born. When it returns on November 13 and 14, a lucky few will have the opportunity to experience an event whose mission is to ensure that authentic Hawaiian culture, once almost lost, lives on into the next generation. A few—because the venue is small, and much of the audience cheering the dancers on will be family, by kinship or halau (hula school).
Some two-dozen students, representing eight halau from Maui, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i Island and Japan, will compete at this year’s event, part of a larger weekend of cultural reenactments, craft demonstrations, Hawaiian games and entertainment that invite the public to participate in celebrating the season of Makahiki.
Makahiki festivities begin at 9 a.m. each day, and admission is free. Hula O Na Keiki runs from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, 2 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are available at Hula Rock in Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center, and at Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel (661-0011), sole source of reserved and premium seating.