Fifty Years/Seven Minutes: It takes centuries to develop a cultural practice like hula. Half a century to build a festival like the Merrie Monarch. A year for a halau to prepare its performance. And seven minutes to dance on a hallowed stage.
In honor of this year’s Merrie Monarch jubilee, we talked to some of the thousands of people who have been touched by hula’s most renowned gathering. While many things have changed since the inception of the Merrie Monarch in 1963, tradition has also been a guiding principle. As hula took on a greater prominence at the festival in the early to mid-1970s, the Merrie Monarch became ever more vital for nurturing and preserving the culture of Hawaii. “Hula is about being conscious across the human timeline,” says Taupouri Tangaro, a hula professor and humanities chairperson at Hawaii Community College in Hilo. “Hula is the artery that keeps the ancients and the moderns in communication.”
In The Beginning
“I remember, and this was 50 years ago, my mom pasting beards on guys for the pageant. It was small back then, and there were dramatic venues, like reenacting King Kalakaua’s speeches. And the beard contest. They are bringing that back this year.