Gretchen Roufs' portraitMike Beeks is an avid hula dancer. When asked to describe his hobby, Mike simply says, “I hula.”


A cleaning and process solutions specialist with Brulin & Co., Inc., an Indianapolis manufacturer, Mike has Hawaiian music on at work all day and listens to it in his car, too.

“Fridays for me are aloha days. I wear a Hawaiian shirt every Friday,” he said.

Mike got started in hula in 1976 when he was running a cleaning chemicals lab in the Chicago area. One of the vendors that called on Mike was a woman who was dancing in a Polynesian review.

“She invited me to come and see their dinner show performance in a local Chinese restaurant,” Mike said.

This casual introduction to hula re-kindled Mike’s long-time interest in Hawaiiana. He started hanging around with the dance troop, taking pictures and occasionally selling pictures of dancers.

“I had no inkling that I would become hooked,” said Mike. “One day the fire dancer quit, and I thought ‘Oh heck, I can do that!’”

Back then, besides doing the fire act, Mike occasionally did a comic hula act.

“Hula shaped the last 30 years of my life,” said Mike. “Hawaiians will tell you that hula is the language of the heart, and therefore it is the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people. Hula is so much more than the ‘lovely hula hands’ that tourists see. For Hawaiians, hula is a very important part of their culture. And it’s true that after a meal they will dance for each other.”

From around 1985 to 2002, Mike says he probably danced and played instruments with every hula group in Chicago. Mike plays the steel guitar, ukulele and drums. He doesn’t sing, though.

“Nobody wants to hear me sing,” he said.

For years he was the master of ceremonies for a hula show in Chicago. He’s also been a teacher of hula, “here and there,” he said. Though he has been known to teach hula to Hawaiians, “teaching the hula is not something I go out and do,” he said.

Mike’s daily dancing routines are no more; however he vowed that in 2008 he would spend at least 30 minutes a day three days a week doing basic hula warm-up routines.

Hula lends itself to strong relationships. Mike met his wife Deborah while dancing with the Chicago group. Mike also has close friends around the country in hula.

“The network of hula brothers and sisters here has regular communications with the kumus (the teachers) in the Hawaiian Islands,” he said.

Hula dancers are all ages — from children to people in their 90s. According to Mike, “Hula isn’t reserved for skinny young things – hula is done by everyone, and some of the best dancers are lovely people who are not small.”

The “not small” part is especially inspiring to me. Maybe hula will be my next hobby.

Gretchen Roufs, an 18-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns a marketing and public relations company in San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in “Freetime,” contact her at