Hawaiian Culture and Cuisine at a Luau

Pig preparations for Luau at Royal Lahaina

Pig preparations for Luau at Royal Lahaina Resort; credit Maui CVB

Hawaiian Culture and Cuisine at a Luau

Jeanette Valentine, Soul Of America

I’m usually shy, but on vacation I turn into an exhibitionist. When the mistress of ceremonies at the Royal Lahaina Resort Luau invites audience members to learn to hula, I take the stage with a dozen other folks. The outdoor theater faces several hundred tourists enjoying free-flowing Mai Tais, Rum Punches and soft drinks at long white dinner tables.

Dark-haired with ample curves covered by a royal blue Mumu dress, the emcee begins a “Hula Lesson for Dummies:” I lift my arms horizontal to the ground, point both to one side and wave good bye. I repeat on the other side. Following her instructions, I envision a gorgeous man facing me and run my hands down his big biceps, his narrow waist and his wide thighs. All of this while swaying my hips. It’s harder than it looks.

Taking a break before the professional dancers show us how it’s done, we line up in front of two thatched-roof covered buffets. The menu includes roast pork, island chicken, fresh fish, purple sweet potatoes, fried rice, seven kinds of salad, fresh fruit and the truly traditional Hawaiian poi. The latter is a staple made from taro, a potato-like root vegetable, and it’s on most menus I encounter in Maui. Poi can have the consistency and texture of pudding with a delicate sour taste.

At nightfall, The Myths of Maui production begins. For three hours, we’re treated to history conveyed through drum beats, seductive dances and island music with a thumping rhythm similar to reggae. The women on stage wear colorful sarongs; form-hugging flowery dresses or shimmery grass skirts with bikini tops. The rhythm of their hips and hands imitate the flowing waves of the ocean.

Hula dancer after Luau, Royal Lahaina Resort

Hula dancer after the Luau, Royal Lahaina Resort; (c) Soul Of America

The men, clad in elaborate head dresses and their own grass skirts or skimpy wraps tied at the waist, execute choreographed stomping dance rituals that remind me of a step show. Bronzed with huge smiles, these accomplished performers have bodies that would shame the fittest of Olympic athletes.

Fatigue set before the end of the show, and so I regretfully cut out early. But I’m told the luau saves the best for last with a brilliant fire dance finale. It’s a definite must-see performance for me next time.

Royal Lahaina Resort

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