“Molokai, the Center of the Dance”
The island of Molokai truly lives up to its billing as “Hawaiian by Nature.” The fifth largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, Molokai is immersed in natural beauty. What’s more, nearly 40 percent of the island’s 7,400 residents are Hawaiian by descent.
The Birthplace of Hula
Molokai is Hawaiian in another special way: It is widely held to be the birthplace of hula. The legend has it that Laka, the goddess of the hula, journeyed from island to island, sharing the dance with all who wished to learn. Each of her graceful movements was layered with spiritual meaning, bringing to life the history, traditions and genealogy of the Hawaiian people.
Laka gave birth to the Hawaiian dance at a sacred hill in Kaana. It was on this hill, Puu Nana, that the ancient Hawaiians learned hula of every kind. It is said that the remains of Laka herself are secretly hidden somewhere beneath the hill.
Each May, Papohaku Beach Park in Kaluakoi (on the western tip of the island) serves as the setting for the Molokai Ka Hula Piko, or “Molokai, the Center of the Dance.” This popular cultural festival includes hula performances, chants, musical entertainment, Hawaiian crafts and games, special ceremonies and food booths. Admission is free.
On-site excursions as well as educational lectures are also presented in the days leading up to the daylong festival. The lectures are presented by kumu hula John Kaimikaua, who founded the event in 1991. The gifted hula instructor, composer and historian was featured in the 1989 Robert Mugge film, Kumu Hula: Keepers of a Culture.
Unlike the immensely popular Merrie Monarch Festival on the Big Island, Molokai Ka Hula Piko is not a competition. There are no judges casting watchful eyes on the dancers, looking for the best performances. Instead, the hula presented here is joyous celebration of this beautiful Hawaiian art form.