Hula’s most prestigious festival Merrie Monarch begins tonight. For more than 50 years, hula hālau from across the islands have descended on Hilo for the three-day competition. But some traditions are being altered this year, in light of a rapidly spreading disease that’s killing Hawai‘i’s ‘ōhi‘a trees. HPR’s Molly Solomon reports.
Music fills the empty gym of St Francis School in Mānoa. Dancers line up for one last practice before heading to Hilo to compete in Merrie Monarch. One of their kumu, Robert Keano Ka‘upu, yells out notes as they glide onto the floor.