The Hula O Na Keiki Competition Is About More Than Dance

Dancing with the feet is one thing, but dancing with the heart is another.

This quote perfectly describes the core of the Hula O Na Keiki competition. Gladly, I was invited to attend Ka’anapali Beach Hotel’s 25th anniversary of this special competition. Just as the hotel honors Hawaiian culture and is known to be “the most Hawaiian hotel on Maui,” so Hula O Na Keiki honors Hawaiian tradition through the gift of dance and discipline.

2015 Overall Kane and Wahine Winners: 

Personal Growth:

Often times hula participants return each year, which provides an opportunity to see their personal growth in understanding Hawaiian culture, as well as the defining of their hula dance. The competition begins behind closed doors, where each participant meets with the panel of judges, with no kumu or parent to guide their answers. Usually the participants enter the room nervous and stiff, but quickly relax once they meet the judges and know that they are for them in every way. The distinguished panel of judges question the dancers about their personal thoughts on hula, their costume selection and adornments, as well as the proper use of the Hawaiian language. As the emcee, Ekela Kaniaupio-Crozier so eloquently shared, “Hula is life. It’s not a show. It’s ‘ohana coming together to dance, express, live.”

Hula O Na Keiki - Photography Jennifer Poppy

Disciplined Training:

Hula students diligently work to prepare for this competition. They travel near and far, from Kula to Honolulu and even as far as Japan! One kumu hula from Honolulu was 88 years old, and she brought the most participants of all! Her encouragement to her hula students and continuation of teaching across the decades illustrates the reality of hula as life…more than a dance.

Hula O Na Keiki - Photography Jennifer Poppy

Kumu Hula:

I was fascinated by the kumu hula on the judges panel, as well as those who brought students to participate. Kumu hula are not just teachers, they are your second mom (or dad), your counselor, your helper, your pastor, your friend. They are your mentor and cheerleader. Kumu hula are priceless, and anyone blessed with one should appreciate it. The competition judges included: Hokulani Holt, Kapono ‘ai Molitau, Shane Kamakaokalani Herrod, Maelia Carter, Kekuhi Kanae Kanahele Keali’ikanaka’oleohaililani, Kehaulani Kekua and last but not least, Keali’i Reichel.

Watch this beautiful video by Hawaii on TV to hear from the head judge herself, as well as see beautiful hula performances:


Honored Culture:

This was my first hula competition to attend. I’m thankful that it was one that truly seeks to honor Hawaiian culture, language, arts and life. The keiki (kids) did an amazing job, and all of the kumu hula and parents should be proud. It takes a village to prepare for a hula competition and it was fun to see the community come together to have this special 3-day weekend. Volunteers dedicated hours behind the scenes at the hotel and their pride in keeping this hula competition all in the ‘ohana was evident through their aloha, starting at the front desk, continuing throughout the program and upon leaving the hotel.

Hula O Na Keiki - Photography Jennifer Poppy

Mahalo to Ka’anapali Beach Hotel for hosting the Hula O Na Keiki competition over the last 25 years. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners, which may be found here.

For another perspective on the weekend, please read June Harper’s post here.

Note: Photos with * indicates credit to Ka’anapali Beach Hotel photographers. All other photos are property of Jennifer Poppy of Island Gypsy Hawaii. 



Happy thoughts anyone? xoxo Island Gypsy

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