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Hawaii: Hula event for children is about competition and culture

Hawaii: Hula event for children is about competition and culture
Crimson Yee performs in a previous children's hula contest at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel on Maui. This year's competition is Nov. 14-16. (Zane Mathias)

Hula is more than just entertainment. That's the message visitors and students of the dance will take away from a children's hula competition in mid-November.

Now in its 24th year, the Hula O Na Keiki will return Nov. 14-16 to the Kaanapali Beach Hotel near Lahaina on Maui. Solo hula dancers ages 5 to 17 will demonstrate their moves and their knowledge of the cultural traditions that surround the dance.

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Kahiko hula, the ancient-style performed with chants and traditional instruments, will begin at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 14. The more modern, more familiar auana-style dance, which reflects more of the Western influence, will be demonstrated at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 15.

The performing youngsters, who come from as far away as Los Angeles and Las Vegas, will be quizzed by the judges about their knowledge of their chants, costumes and even the flowers in their leis.

"It's a time when the judges get to know the contestants," Dee Coyle of the Kaanapali said. "They're able to see if the students really understand why they're dancing.

"Hula is just not getting up there and making motions."

Hula originated in an era when Hawaiian wasn't a written language. The chants and dances shared stories about history and cultural traditions, allowing them to be passed from one generation to the next.

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