A decade of hula education

  • The Moku O Keawe International Hula Festival kicks off with “Aahu, An Exploration of Fashion and Art Rooted in Culture,” on Wednesday, Nov. 11 at Hilton Waikoloa Village. (COURTESY PHOTO)
  • Kumu Hula Cy Bridges teaches a workshop on Thursday, Nov. 12. (COURTESY PHOTO)
  • Performances and competitions are featured on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. (COURTESY PHOTO)
  • Nalani Kanakaole and Dr. Pualani Kanahele lead cultural workshops on Friday, Nov. 13. (COURTESY PHOTO)
  • The 10th Annual Moku O Keawe International Hula Festival open to the public takes place Nov. 11 through 14 at Hilton Waikoloa Village. (COURTESY PHOTO)

“The last 10 years of workshop classes have given students experiences to expand their repertoire,” says Moku O Keawe Foundation President Sig Zane, referring to next week’s Moku O Keawe International Hula Festival (MOK) at Hilton Waikoloa Village, Nov. 11 through 14.

“Classes of hula learned from esteemed judges of this distinguished competition honor their unique generational styles. The chants taught reach inner depths and exciting highs. The festival continues that original mission of the Moku O Keawe Foundation, bringing education to the forefront, and sharing insight and tradition.”

Moku O Keawe International Hula Festival History

Ten years ago, a newly-formed Moku O Keawe Foundation made it their mission to promote hula education at all levels — from the casual observer to the lifelong devotee — and to share its artistry across the Pacific.

In May 2005, the Big Island Visitors Bureau sponsored a trip to Aiichi, Japan for the World Expo. Representing Hawaii Island were na kumu hula Nani Lim Yap and kumu hula Nalani Kanakaole, designer Sig Zane, artist Kathy Long and Margo Mau-Bunnell.

Over 5,000 dancers in 60 different halau came to see them. Blown away by the response and recognizing the immediate need to help expand hula teaching from its source, the Hawaii group had an idea. By July that year, the first-ever Moku O Keawe International Festival took place in Nagoya. The winner would be invited to Waikoloa Beach Resort to compete with Hawaiian halau.

Fashion &Art

A decade later, MOK celebrates its 10th anniversary, with a brand new event, “Aahu, An Exploration of Fashion and Art Rooted in Culture,” on opening night at the Water’s Edge Ballroom that showcases the next generation with the latest hula fashion line by Manaola Yap, son of Ed and Nani Lim Yap, and “Forest Cloud by Sig,” by Kuhao Zane, son of Sig Zane and Nalani Kanakaole. Tickets are $60, which includes pupu, entertainment and an exclusive silent auction featuring limited edition prints by each of the designers. All proceeds benefit MOK Foundation’s mission of education.

On Friday, skilled artisan Iliahi Anthony guides a group of students through the process of making their own gourd rattle, uliuli — a rhythm instrument used in traditional hula. The cost for the full-day workshop is $125 which includes materials.


Thursday through Saturday, MOK presents three nights of high-level hula competition in the Monarchy Ballroom, where halau from Japan, Hawaii and elsewhere vie for group and solo titles. Dancers will be judged on hula kahiko (ancient) and hula auana (modern), as well as costume, lei and adornments, language and chant. Friday’s Kupuna Night is a favorite for island families who come to cheer on their aunties, moms and grandmothers.

Moku O Keawe International Festival hula competition tickets are $25 VIP or $15 for open seating. Keiki five years old and younger are free when accompanied by an adult.


Students can sign up for hula workshops taught by notable kumu hula, many of whom serve as competition judges. All classes can perform at Saturday’s hoike, before the final competition. Dancers are taught select hula about special places across the islands.

Kumu Hula Olana Ai of Halau O Olana chose the wedding song “Haliilua” by Albert Nahalea. “He wrote this song for Hannah Parish of Kona,” says Zane. “Names of the bride and groom are mentioned in the words, along with place names on the island of Hawaii. Haliilua is the name of a spring at Kaawaloa at Kealakekua where Queen Kapiolani enjoyed bathing in the pool, as it sits below the Sacred Cliffs of Keoua.”

“Waipio Paeaea,” with lyrics by Kuana Torres Kanahele, was chosen by Kumu Hula Cy Bridges to honor his kupuna through gestures linking genealogy to place. “Uncle Cy speaks of his connection to Waipio with his great grandmother who was born there,” says Zane. “It is with these emotions that he has pulled the imagery for this hula auana.”

A Kauai song, “Pua Hahani” by Kuana Torres Kahele, will be taught by Kumu Hula Nani Lim Yap, one of the founders of MOK, both in Japan and Hawaii. “Nani brings a special style to her choreography and choice songs,” says Zane. “Each composition is a reflection of her musical foundation and upbringing in the countryside of Kohala. Pure and fluid, her dance is the soft breeze at the shore and the pleasant mists of the uplands.”

Kumu Hula Uluwehi Guerrero will teach “Aloha Ia No O Maui,” a composition by Alice Johnson, a prolific songwriter. Referred to as a “mele pana,” the words praise the beautiful sights and special characteristics of Maui.

Fourth generation Kumu Hula of the venerable Halau O Kekuhi, Nalani Kanakaole will teach “Ku Oe Kou Wahi Ohelo Nei,” a hula performed with pahu (drum) and puniu (knee drum).

“This traditional hula has survived intact, despite several centuries of outside influences,” says Zane. “The drum beat is rhythmic and slow, accelerating as the hula progresses. The choreography remains the same as it was more than three hundred years ago.”

Zane continues, “Nalani is the fourth generation kumu hula, beginning with her grandmother. She says it is a privilege to have had a grandmother who was dedicated at birth and taken hula kapu until the age of eight years old. It is this commitment in Nalani’s DNA that has formed her ideology and teachings for her entire life.”

Registration for the workshops is available at mokif.com, and a $60 per person donation is requested.


Two in-depth lectures are offered on Saturday: “The Hula Goddesses,” by Nalani Kanakaole, and “Ke Kuahu,” by Dr. Pualani Kanahele. Advance registration is required and a $25 donation per session is requested.

“If you can, partake of their offerings and take home their source of dance and thought,” says Zane. “Listen to the words of wisdom and treasure the spirit.”

For more information and to purchase tickets for the competition, workshops and lectures, visit www.mokif.com.

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