Kala’i Stevens Dances at Merrie Monarch


Katherine Seed, Editor

The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival is an annual celebration honoring the rich history of Hawaii through dance, song and crafts. Hula is embedded into the culture of the Hawaiian islands and is the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.

The performances demonstrate stories of Hawaii through graceful and powerful movements of dancers. These stories are something that the Hawaiians hold sacred.

For senior Kala’i Stevens, it was a dream come true to dance on the world’s biggest, most prestigious stage for hula.

As someone raised in Hawaii and heavily indulged in the art of hula since she was three years old, her love and passion flourishes in each step. Hula is one of the most important things in her life, as she even represented Halau Hula Olana as Miss Keiki Hula in 2013, and strived to move forward and reach higher from there.

“Hula is life,” she said. “I love learning about my culture and being able to tell the story through chant and mele (song). Hula is on my mind 24/7 and I’m always thinking about what I need to work on or how I can be better at what I love.”

Stevens explained the festival is the most prestigious hula festival in the world, comparing it to the Olympics of hula.

With strict focus and a tough work ethic, she set out to make that dream come true and dedicated her time to hula, working tirelessly to qualify herself.

“Only the best of the best can compete,” she said. “I had to work very hard, mature myself and my skill to match the level of my hula sisters who have been dancing for more than 20 years and look as If I’ve been dancing that long too. It took a lot of hard work and dedication. I made hula my priority and my most frequently used line became ‘I can’t, I have hula.’ It definitely didn’t come easy for me.”

The sore muscles resulting from hours relentless practicing was worth it, as Kala’i Stevens ended up earning her spot in the Merrie Monarch, leading the girls on stage in 2018 and continues dances in Kahiko and ‘Auana.

“Kahiko is a traditional or ancient style of hula that is normally performed with an ipu accompanied by a chant and ‘Auana is a more modern style of dance, performed with a mele or song,” she explained. “I love Kahiko because it’s a very fierce dance and all your expressions are so natural yet strong.”

As her life moves forward, hula will always be in her heart, and she plans to carry it with her for the rest of her life. She will be going to Grand Canyon University and majoring in biology with an emphasis in pre med, but plans on returning home after school and continue swaying, dancing to her favorite mele.