At the first World Conference on
Hula in 2001, Hokulani Holt-Padilla sat among the elders of hula,
“To hear what they had to say, to see them in person, to enjoy
their stories and experiences, gave me a greater appreciation of
hula discipline as well as creativity,” said Holt-Padilla, a kumu
hula (hula master) in her own right. “It taught me more about how
time and place affect the evolution of hula. I came away believing
more than ever that there must always be a place where traditional
hula is maintained, no matter how it eventually evolves as an art
The inaugural conference convened in Hilo, on the Big Island.
This year, from July 24 to 30, it’s Maui’s turn to host the
prestigious event, which takes place only once every four years.
During the week, clients can learn about Hawaii’s hallowed dance
through workshops, presentations, excursions, performances and
“The Maui community sees this as a wonderful opportunity to
welcome people interested in hula and Hawaiian culture, to open our
doors, and to practice hookipa (hospitality),” said Holt-Padilla,
one of the conference coordinators.
This isn’t your cellophane-skirt Hollywood-style hula we’re
talking about. Instead, the conference addresses the dance as a
truly cultural and historical experience. However, that doesn’t
mean clients need to know how to dance hula or speak Hawaiian in
order to benefit from the conference, stressed Holt-Padilla.
“The conference offers learning opportunities for people who
have had no exposure to hula,” she said. “A participant can take
trips to outlying areas, hear lectures on Hawaiian history and
literature, view and participate in demonstrations of cultural
practices and learn how to sing Hawaiian songs and dance hula.”
At the same time, the conference provides new insights for
clients who may already be well versed in things Hawaiian, even
someone as tuned into the culture as the highly esteemed
Holt-Padilla. Recalling her experience at the 2001 conference, she
said, “It was stimulating for me to see such excitement and hear
the discussions of the participants. The thoughts and ideas, the
realizations, the many new pieces of information that were being
discussed all of it was very moving.”
A prolific composer of mele (songs) and oli (chants), and the
cultural programs director at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center,
the Maui-raised Holt-Padilla mounts major dramatic hula productions
like “Tales of Maui the Demigod” and “Maui Moonlight Serenade.” But
she also channels her energies toward keeping the culture alive for
the next generation. She co-founded Maui’s Hawaiian language
immersion preschool, for instance, and she served as a program
coordinator for Maui’s center for gifted and talented native
In the midst of her many projects, Holt-Padilla is making sure
Maui gets its moment in the sun as host of the World Conference on
“This time around, we plan to focus on information that stems
from Maui,” said Holt-Padilla. “In Hawaii and the rest of the
world, Maui does not readily come to mind when people think of hula
traditions. Bringing Maui’s information and experience to
conference participants is an important goal. Perhaps then, more
Maui songs and dances will be done throughout the world, because
people will have a personal experience and reference with the
places and people of our island.” Presenters during the conference
include luminaries from Hawaii’s cultural, intellectual and
artistic fields. Besides Holt-Padilla, clients can mingle with and
learn from Cliff Pali Ahue, Manu Boyd, Hailama Farden, Kaipo Frias,
Leinaala Kalama Heine, Pualani Kanahele, Kekuhi Kanahele, Robert
Kaupu, Manu Meyer, Kathy Holoau Ralar, Lisa Raymond, Alicia Smith,
Piilani Smith and Vicky Holt Takamine.
“It’s a very rare occasion when all of these people come
together in one place,” Holt-Padilla said. Members of Maui’s
tourism industry are looking forward to the conference, expected to
draw 2,500 people to the island for one to two weeks.
“Like all other conferences, the World Conference on Hula will
bring more visitors to our hotels, restaurants, shopping centers
and other businesses,” said Holt-Padilla. “We anticipate that
revenues during this time will be upward of several million
The conference registration fee itself isn’t commissionable to
travel agents, but travel agents can benefit from the commissions
paid on related expenses such as hotel accommodations and rental
The 2005 World Conference on Hula takes place at various Maui
locations July 24-30.
The weeklong celebration of hula and Hawaiian culture features
workshops conducted by 100 hula teachers, cultural practitioners
and artisans, and evening hula performances. Some 2,000 hula
teachers, students and enthusiasts are expected to participate.
While it’s open to all ages and abilities, most of the
conference’s activities are geared toward adults, with specific
programs designed for children.
Registration includes conference materials, lunches for five
days, evening performances, one evening meal, excursions and
shuttle service to conference venues.
Several Maui hotels are setting aside room blocks for conference
participants. The conference Web site provides a link to
accommodations that are available during the week.
Rates for early registration by March 1 are $325 per adult, $225
per senior (60 years and older) and $150 per child (ages 5-12).
Registration after March 1 costs $375 per adult, $275 per senior
and $200 per child. Evening performances (open to the public): $10