Merrie Monarch is the olympics of Hula, an international event that brings in Hula groups from all over the world to Hilo. The whole town works together to make the event a success and bring the feeling of hula, a special kind of warmth and love to the visiting dancers, musicians, and tourists. It is an enhanting time to be in Hilo and one way to begin to understand the Hawaii culture and how hard the Hawaiians are working to keep it alive.
This was our first Merrie Monarch. Though we didn't have tickets to the two main hula competitions we were able to watch them live on TV. The week long activities were beyond my wildest imagination. They were fun and enchanting. We took pictures and videos of every event we could get to.
Hula is the most amazing form of dance; I felt drawn in rather than most dance where I feel a great distance away from the art and form of the dance. The perfomers are young and old, drawn together by a shared love of the culture and sense of belongingness that they then communicate to the crowd participating by watching. The hula competition is divided into traditional chant hula and the more known mele hula with accompanying muscians. The competition is between groups, not individuals, that are associated with hula schools (Halau) with a guiding teacher (kumu). The men compete separately from the women in each category. Preparation for the competition is intense requiring practice to stay in perfect synchronizattion, mastery of the Hawaiian language and lei making which each dancer makes themselves to adorn their bodies. The choice of chants and mele is strictly controlled as well as the dance moves in order to keep the traditions alive. Points are deducted for leis that fall off and lack of synchronization in dance and song. The dedication and practice required by each dancer to participate, much less win a Merrie Monarch competition is huge.
If you ever get a chance to be in Hilo for Merrie Monarch, don't pass on the opportunity. Hotel roomsl have to be reserved far in advance, because hula lovers from around the world come to Hilo to be a part of the amazing event. Below are links to photos and films taken at the events we were able to attend
Below is a description of the Merrie Monarch events every day during the 2008 season.