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As the ice cakes over Minnesota, imagine palm trees swaying in tropical breezes as graceful women perform hula dances in the warming sun.
Now come back to reality in the upper Midwest, where mighty oak trees are bending to the blustery Plains wind and the wind chill is sub-zero. At least in Chisago City, Minn., you can see the hula performed. At the Vitalize! Wellness Centre at Ecumen Parmly LifePointes this traditional Hawaiian dance has practicing devotees, led by Edie Julik who developed a passion for hula when she was a child.
Edie, a former elementary school teacher, is used to dealing with the scoffers who think the very notion of dancing hula in this part of the country is a joke. When she posts her notices of upcoming classes “people usually think it has something to do with the hula hoop,” she says.
But at the Vitalize! Wellness Centre, which caters to older adults, Edie has found women who understand hula the way she does — “for health, for fun and to feel beautiful.”
For health, she says, it’s one of the best cognitive exercises you can do. Yes, cognitive.
“There is a lot of brain work involved in hula,” Edie says. “You can’t be thinking about what’s for dinner while doing the hula. You have to be totally in the moment. No matter how many times you do it, there is no auto-pilot.”
The dance tells stories through graceful movements. So students have to memorize the choreography. Doing the correct movements to the musical cues requires intense focus.
There are numerous physical benefits as well. Hula is low impact, Edie says, and under-utilized muscles are “gently awakened” by the dance. Muscle memory develops as the dances are repeated and learned. “Hula improves posture,” she says, “and it’s very good for the feet and the knees, as well as the whole body.”
In addition to the mental and physical benefits, Edie says doing the graceful movements of the hula “make you feel beautiful and happy.” Hula dances mainly are about finding joy in love, beauty and nature.
Edie became interested in hula when she was nine years old. She had a great-aunt living in Hawaii who she was planning to visit, but the trip fell through. She offset her disappointment by learning about Hawaii and its traditions. Then, when she was in her late 20s living in South Dakota, she met a hula teacher and found her passion, then set up her own dance studio. Since then she has had three other teachers, and she has become a teacher to many more women.
“I couldn’t live if I couldn’t do this,” Edie says. “This is more a passion than a hobby. When I’m teaching, I feel like I’m giving a gift to make people’s lives richer.”
Edie’s class meets on Mondays at the Vitalize! Wellness Centre at Ecumen Parmly LifePointes in Chicago City, Minn. A new 7-week session will start January 6, 2014 at a cost of $55. The beginners’ class goes from 9:45 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., when beginners dance with intermediate students until 10:30. Then from 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. is intermediate only. To register call 651-257-7956 or stop by the Vitalize! Wellness Centre and fill out a registration form.
For more information on the Vitalize! Wellness Centre click here. Vitalize! is an innovative senior wellness center serving Ecumen Parmly LifePointes residents and the broader Chisago Lakes community. Programs, services and amenities are designed to support active aging through the six dimensions of individual well-being: physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, vocational, and social. Vitality coaching is available to support holistic perspectives that integrate body, mind, heart and spirit. Vitalize! is open seven days a week, with early morning to evening hours. Call 651-257-7956 for more information on other classes and schedules.