• World

The Hottest Place To Hula

2 minute read

If you want to widen your dance repertoire beyond salsa and tango, there’s always hula. Long before Captain James Cook arrived on the island of Kauai in 1778, Hawaiians were performing the hypnotic dance. Though its origins are steeped in legend, the hula is thought to have been brought to Hawaii by Polynesian immigrants more than 1,500 years ago. The stylized hand and foot gestures are meant to mirror natural phenomena like swaying palms and waterfalls, and are always accompanied by rhythmic chants. Grass skirts, leis and decorative ferns, nuts and shells, are intended to symbolize the integration of nature with Hawaiian life.

There’s no better place to learn about the hula, and watch the best dancers in the business, than the Merrie Monarch festival, held from March 27 to April 2 in the town of Hilo on the Big Island’s east coast. The 40-year-old festival is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the hula in particular and Hawaiian culture in general. The weeklong fiesta, 404 Not Found

404 Not Found

nginx/1.14.0 (Ubuntu) which attracts up to 10,000 people, begins with a Ho’olaulea (music festival) on Moku Ola that features traditional singing. On March 30, there’s a free hula exhibition night at the Edith Kanaka ‘Ole Stadium where you can see both traditional and contemporary hula styles. Don’t miss the competition on March 31, where dancers vie for the title of Miss Aloha Hula. There’s also a hula-themed parade that winds through downtown Hilo at 10:30 a.m. on April 2. Except for the competitions, all events are free. Get into the hula mana — that’s Hawaiian for spirit. tel: (1-808) 935 9168; www.merriemonarchfestival.org

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com