Worldwide hula dances on Kauai

They’re coming from the far-reaches of the world to Kauai, says Kehau Kekua, director for the fourth World Hula Conference. 

For the past 10 months she has poured her heart and soul into the event because she cherishes the art of hula and everything it has meant to her and the generations before her from whom she learned.

“This is an invitation to the world to come to Hawaii to learn, to explore and to connect with the culture of Hawaii. There is no other opportunity like this held elsewhere,” Kekua said. 

The idea of a worldwide hula conference came 12 years ago when the senior kumu hula felt a deep sense of obligation to shift focus away from the commercialization of hula and focus back to its roots.

“Hula has become so commercialized all over the world and in Kauai,” Kekua said. 

The historic hula conference event will be a weeklong celebration on Kauai with masters, scholars, artisans and 1,000 registrants from as far away as Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Mexico, Hungary and Japan. 

“The world’s biggest learners of the hula come from Mexico and Japan,” Kekua said. “In Japan, there are more than 7,000 hula studios, schools and groups who practice the ancient art form. The farther away they are away from the natural resources of the environment in Hawaii, the more disconnected they are from the art of the hula,” Kekua said.  

A plethora of different topics, hands-on cultural learning excursions, and hula and chanting classes taught by masters are scheduled to engage participants with the intention of drawing them to the core meaning of the dance. Over 900 participants are registered. The pre-conference seminars are filling up fast as well. 

“We’ll have a variety of excursions that will take people to Hanapepe to learn from practitioners about the harvesting of salt,” Kekua said.

 Other participants will learn the ancient art of Kapa, fiber cloth making, as well as knotting techniques for the making of nets used to gather fresh water for ceremonies.

The conference will be held July 10-18 with some classes at Kauai Community College and various other locations around Kauai. Organizers said the next worldwide hula conference won’t be held on Hawaii until 2030. 

For further information or to register visit www.hulaconferences.org.

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