A hula competition in Orlando, Florida? Yes! I was introduced to this event my first year in the halau. We were in competition mode during those early classes, so in addition to not knowing anything, the intensity level was a bit high!
Every summer in Orlando there is a wonderful event: Ho‘ike Hawai‘i. This
July will be the 14th annual celebration. This year’s theme is “Ke Aloha” (Love) and features Hawaiian hula on Saturday, with the dances of Tahiti, New Zealand (Maori), Samoa, and Tonga on Sunday.
The competition draws participants from all over the U.S., and even from Canada, although the economy has taken a toll the last two years on those who are able to participate, and there was a fear for a while last summer that it might not be held this year. Everyone pulled together for this worthy cause, and there are some new groups coming this year, in addition to the return of some groups that had to take some time off due to financial considerations. And a new category has also been added: Makuahine (Gracious Ladies). So I will be performing in my first hula competition, along with five other ladies from our halau. (It’s a long way from those first six months!)
The concert by The Makaha Sons is on Saturday evening and they’re terrific! In addition to being a fantastic group and a staple in Hawaiian music, Jerome Koko, John Koko, and “Uncle” Moon are just ordinary people. They spend the weekend with us, and you can often find them in the hallway and spend some time chatting with them. Kealo Koko Simpson performs several hulas during the show; she’s exquisite and so graceful. She competed at Merrie Monarch in 2005 and was first runner up! And then there’s Shadow: he’s a terrific dancer, an all-around nice guy, and is a huge hit, especially with the ladies!