Above: My beautiful niece, Kamalei, performing at the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, Hawaii.

The Merrie Monarch Festival is the ultimate hula dance competition there is on the planet. With over 25 hula halaus (hula dance studios/schools) competing for top honors, this year my niece, Kamalei, competed in her fourth appearance at this event. To me, its an honor to perform at this event. Its about dance, language, and our way to preserve the Hawaiian culture. Hula has been part of my family for many years. From the days of when my sister Pualani dancing at the number one Polynesian review in Waikiki to my sister Leila competing in this same event, hula taught them discipline and the love for our Hawaiian culture.

Today, hula is part of Kamalei's life and as I watched her mature into a beautiful young woman, I'm grateful that hula has taught her to dance from the heart. I've seen it in the times when my sister Pua would dance at family event to the times when sister Leila would perform with her hula halau while attending high school. 

Kamalei has been dancing since the age of four. A natural performer, she has learned how to grace the stage in competition at the Keiki (child) hula level to the more prestigious Merrie Monarch level of competition. She is fluent in the Hawaiian language, but whenever I watch her dance, I tear up. Its an emotion that I can't explain. I guess its pride that I have for my family. When she dances I can feel what she feels. Its hard as a dancer to achieve that but this week, Kamalei and her hula sisters did it again by winning top honors and the overall Wahine (women's) division at this year's Merrie Monarch Festival.

Congratulations to my niece, Kamalei. You have taught all of us how to continue our culture by preserving it through your love of hula. Mahalo (thank you) for the love that you share with our ohana (family) by taking care of your grandma (my sister Pua) during her battle with cancer and also taking care of your tutu (great-grandma, my mother) while she's recovering in the hospital. I'm beyond proud of you. 

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