Ballard hula
Leila Fernandez teaches hula classes to get Northwest women in shape.

Learn Hula: Aloha from Ballard and Bellevue

KIRO/710 ESPN Anchor
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Another dreary 40 degree rainy Seattle morning, doesn't Hawaii sound great right now? Here's a way to at least pretend you're in tropical paradise, and shape up for the real swimsuit season: hula lessons.

People from Ballard to Bellevue are falling in love with the traditional dances of the Hawaiian Islands thanks to Hula choreographer and dancer Leila Fernandez. We met for coffee and a quick Hula lesson near her home on Mercer Island.

"Hula is a loving dance," said Fernandez. "You have to appreciate it because it's so elegant, sophisticated, and smooth." But you actually need to be strong to pull off a hula.

I'm a guy with two left feet, but Leila insists Hula is for everyone.

"It's four steps to the right, four steps to the left. Then you have to add in your hips and remember your upper body is straight." Easier said than done for a guy with no hips.

Fernandez learned traditional native dances from her mother and operated a production company in Hawaii. After moving to the Seattle area with her husband and new son, she found there weren't many Hula teachers in our area. She started offering Hula classes this month at Dance Academy of Bellevue, for girls to adult women.

There is tremendous exercise and fitness to most dances. Hula requires a strong core and legs. "Last week I taught a class in Bellevue, and the adults were exhausted after one hour," says Leila. "And they looked at me and thought, 'Oh my god, we didn't know you have to use so many muscles for basic steps.'"

Soon, Fernandez will offer lessons through Kula Movement in Ballard. In fact, there's a free class March 25th at 6 p.m. to all ages. But Leila only teaches Hula to females. Guys need to learn from guys because the steps and hand movements are different. As Fernandez explains, each Hawaiian dance tells a different story.

Grass skirts are not required for lessons. "Eventually if you join the dance line, you can buy your own pau [Hawaiian skirt.]"

To register for the free Hula class, contact Leila Fernandez at

Bill Swartz, 710 ESPN Seattle
Sports anchor, news reporter, emcee, and a man of many voices, Bill Swartz has been a jack-of-all trades during his career, especially at KIRO Radio and 710 ESPN Seattle since 2002.
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