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Forget Hollywood movies or vacation luaus, you haven’t seen hula until you’ve seen this week’s competitive performances in Hawaii – and now you can, in HD! The annual Merrie Monarch Festival is underway and televised coverage begins Thursday, this year in high definition. For those of you outside Hawaii, the HD coverage is also streamed online. Organizers say the festival is the most-watched, longest-running local TV program in Hawaii, broadcast since 1981.
The festival has been called the Olympics of hula, which suits the combined inpidual performances and team standings. It also hints at the rigorous preparation the dancers undergo. They train and practice year-round for this competition. I was awed by the athleticism of the dances, especially the men’s competition. I was also mesmerized by the undulating waves of hula when performed by groups – that aspect of the art is completely missing from most stage performances.
This year, the festival is missing two of its long-time organizers. Both George Naope and Dottie Thompson died recently, as did well-known performer Rae Fonseca. There are sure to be tributes to their memory and contributions to the spirit of hula. The goal of the Merrie Monarch Festival is to perpetuate and promote the traditional culture of the Hawaiian people. Proceeds are used to support educational outreach through workshops, seminars and symposia.
The festival includes more than the hula competition. If you take a Hawaii vacation and attend in person, you can take in crafts fairs, an art show, music concerts, and a parade. It is a week-long celebration of all things hula on the Big Island of Hawaii, always held the week after Easter. Tickets go on sale for each year’s competition in December. This year, they were sold out by February. If you’d like to attend the event, detailed procedures for obtaining a ticket are available on the festival’s website. The 2011 dates are April 24-30. Tune in to the televised event this week and start making plans to experience this unique celebration of hula in person.
HD broadcast link: