The Waikiki Insider Spring 2013

May 1, 2013 | By Mona Wood-Sword

Spring is always a special time for me. As a life-long hula dancer, having the Merrie Monarch Festival (www.—the “Olympics” of hula—just this past April in Hilo on Hawai‘i island, and the Waikiki International Hula Conference (see info, below) in May, right in our own back yard, makes this time extra exciting, as well as historically and culturally significant.

Hula is so much more than a swing of the hips and hand gestures, and it takes many years of study to be an accomplished dancer. Hula is divided into two types: hula kahiko and hula ‘auana. Hula kahiko is the ancient style of hula performed in honor of the chiefs and gods, and is accompanied by chant and traditional instruments, such as the pahu, or drum. Hula ‘auana is the modern form of hula that is accompanied by song and musical instruments like the guitar and ‘ukulele.

When my husband Max and I were married, as is the tradition for many Hawaiian brides, I danced a hula ‘auana for my new husband at our reception. I really wanted him to be a part of the performance, too, so he played the guitar and sang one of our favorite Hawaiian love songs while I danced, and we shared this as a gift to our guests and each other. Over the years, I’ve taught dozens of brides a hula to perform for their husbands at their wedding receptions. It’s usually nerve-wracking for the brides, wanting to perform their hula, their gift of love, perfectly, so there is a

lot of time and effort put into rehearsals, working with their dress so they don’t trip, and choosing the perfect song. But, virtually every single time, the bride and groom both ended up with tears of love and joy overflowing long before the dance ended.

Hula is a beautiful and thriving art form unique to Hawai‘i. Take the time to learn and appreciate the true essence of hula from the source during the Waikiki International Hula Conference. Register for the conference or attend one of their many free performances at various Waikiki locations.




The International Waikiki Hula Conference offers the rare opportunity for visitors to come to Hawai‘i to learn, share and experience hula in the land of its birth, with a variety of respected hula masters and teachers, many of whom do not travel out-of-state to teach. For our local hula people, it is the chance to enrich their hula experience from many sources in one place, to meet fellow dancers and kumu hula (hula teachers) from around the world.

This year, the International Waikiki Hula Conference theme celebrates Hilo’s famed Merrie Monarch Festival on its 50th Anniversary. All workshops feature subject matter, mele (songs), chant and hula with topics related to Hawai‘i Island, Hilo, Uncle George Na‘ope and Aunty Dottie Thompson (founders of the Merrie Monarch Festival) and the Merrie Monarch himself, King David Kalakaua. Some hula being taught has even been presented on the Merrie Monarch stage in competition.

Experience three days, 40 kumu hula, choose from 80 workshops and seminars on hula kahiko and hula ‘auana, chant, history, costume, lei making, Hawaiian language, songs, implement making and more. The conference also features ten ho‘ike hula shows throughout Waikiki, a vendor mall and closing kanikapila concert.

And to my mom and all the moms out there: Happy Mother’s Day! We’re celebrating in Waikiki, of course. Check out the great restaurants in this issue of Waikiki Magazine or visit

E hula kakou (Let’s hula),