The 2011 Merrie Monarch Festival is in full swing and the live viewing schedule begins with tonight’s “Miss Aloha Hula” competition. Live video streaming from the festival website continues with tomorrow’s halau (group) performances and concludes Saturday with modern style dances.

This is hula at its best – the competition version of hula as it is actually danced in the islands. In addition to the festival live streaming, it is being carried live on KFVE in Hawaii. The television website (k5thehometeam.com) is accessible from anywhere. It includes stories and background that more casual hula observers might appreciate.

One warning for anyone wanting to watch live: the nightly performances begin at 6 pm Hawaii Standard Time, already late-night viewing for most of the mainland. They are scheduled to end at 11:30 or 12:30 pm each night. Depending upon where you live, you might catch live hula for breakfast!

If your schedule does not allow live viewing, photo galleries and videos are posted on both the festival and television websites. The names of inpidual participants are listed, along with results. Many in the islands follow this like it is the Olympics of Hula. I don’t know enough to judge among these performers, but I can tell you this is like nothing I ever imagined. The flowing lines of dancers, the costumes, the combination of music and movement — if you’ve never seen hula, you owe yourself this treat. If you have only seen hula at a luau or restaurant, you really need this to round out your appreciation of this art form.

If you want to see next year’s Merrie Monarch Festival in person, you’ll need to order tickets as soon as they go on sale as it always sells out. But there are events everyone can enjoy even if you don’t get one of the prized admission tickets if you are on the Big Island the week after Easter.

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