I used to view Hula dancing from a cultural viewpoint, as in, ‘gee, that is really a beautiful, graceful dance.’ I have learned Hula is more than just a dance. Sunday night I was watching WYCC, a local PBS broadcasting station. The program they showed at 7:00 PM was listed as Pacific Heartbeat. It featured an hour long coverage of the 2013 “Merrie Monarch Festival” held in Hilo on the big island of Hawaii. 2013 was the 50th anniversary of the festival. In its early years the festival had attractions like the ‘beard growing’ contest in honor of King David Kalakaua (reigned: 1874-91). King Kalakaua gave permission to perform the Hula again. It had been forbidden in the early 1800’s. In the 1970’s Hula competition was introduced and the popularity of the festival surged. Now it attracts dance teams from all over the world.

Hula is not just a cultural part of Hawaii. It is also a spiritual practice which includes the teachings of the elders and it requires disciplined practice and focus. In the book Mana Cards, the authors describe hula in relation to the Hawaiian goddess Laka. Laka is the goddess of inspiration, especially where hula is concerned. On page 93 of Mana Cards, the authors write, “More than a dance, hula is an essential part of Hawai’i. It is treated with such respect that dancers adhere to strict traditions when gathering the plants for their costumes and the hula altar. Hula is a complex ritual, a form of worship, a spiritual practice, a discipline.” Specific plants and flowers which are said to be Laka’s favorites are placed on an altar, each one symbolizing a connection to the goddess. Dancers pray that the goddess will inspire them in their dance and make acceptable efforts into excellent ones.

If you have the time and wish to view the 2013 Merrie Monarch Festival film, you will find it at http://www.pacifiicheartbeat.org. Just scroll down a short way and click on the picture of the video from 2013. I guarantee you will enjoy the video and find the dancing both inspiring and highly entertaining. For you ladies, the competition also includes some handsome male dance groups. Aloha!