Me and my niece, Kamalei, playing around in the living room. Little did I know that she would be an amazing hula dancer- just like our ancestors before her.

I'm so proud of my Hawaiian heritage. Since I was a young boy, my sisters all danced hula - some of them took classes when they were younger to teach them discipline while others pursued it as a career or serious hobby. Every year the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival is held in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. Back in the early to mid 1980's, my sister, Leila, performed in this prestigious festival. At the time, my Aunty Kawila Reyes from the island of Molokai, was an honorable judge at this competition for over two decades. My sister Pua performed as a professional Polynesian dancer for some of the leading Hawaiian entertainers and popular Polynesian reviews in Hawaii and Guam. Pua still dances hula and attends the kupuna (adult) classes on a weekly basis for exercise. This year, her grand-daughter, my niece Kamalei, performed in her third consecutive Merrie Monarch. And this year marks the 50th anniversary of this amazing competition. People from around the world either attend or watch this competition on TV/Internet. Hula is all over the world and its amazing to see how my culture has affected people from all walks of life and cultures. 

Kamalei posing for her grandpa, Ralph, at our family picnic back in June of 2000. This was the first time we all saw that this little one had something in her- the spirit of hula. We believe it was special gift from God and also from her late father, William Pohano.

Since the very young age of four years old, my niece, Hoku's first born, Kamalei (considered my great-niece), loved to dance. The first time I ever saw her dance was at our family picnic after we had laid both my sister, Mimi, and aunty, Sandi, to rest after battling the same type of pancreatic cancer. In the islands, when we deal with a family death, we celebrate their life through a small family gathering full of food, fun, laughter, music, and of course.....dance. This little four year old decided to bring her Tahitian skirt and grandma's CD player so she can dance for the family. We were so amazed at how she took to moving her hips and dancing to the music. Not once was she afraid or shy to perform in front of her ohana (family). Let me remind you that she was only a little tot that knew nothing about hula BUT we all knew she had it in her blood. Relatives who were there all threw dollar bills at her and she danced even more because she knew she would get more money from her Anakala and Anake (Uncles and Aunties). 

Fast forward to April 5-6, 2013 and Kamalei competes in her third consecutive Merrie Monarch Hula Competition.

Now, at the age of 16 years old, Kamalei performs in her third consecutive Merrie Monarch Hula Festival/Competition. Her hula school, Hula Halau O Kamuela, performed flawlessly and with the most precise movements making all 30+ dancers look like one flowing movement. Winning second place in both the Kahiko (ancient) and Auana (modern) categories, and second overall in the women's division, Hula Halau O Kamuela came back this year strong and ready to win after a disappointing non-placement last year. 

Throughout the years of competing in Keiki (children) Hula Competition to today's Merrie Monarch, I cannot tell you how proud I am of my Kamalei and my family of hula dancers. Hula still lives within our family through our keiki who continue to carry on our family tradition. Hula teaches you discipline and confidence. Hula will ALWAYS live within each and everyone of us.

Below are two videos of Hula Halau O Kamuela's performance.


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