Halau Na Mamo o Pu‘uanahulu’s legacy grows with Merrie Monarch win
July 23, 2017 | 80° | Check Traffic

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Halau Na Mamo o Pu‘uanahulu’s legacy grows with Merrie Monarch win

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The kane of Halau Na Mamo o Pu‘uanahulu, under the direction of kumu William “Sonny” Ching and Lopaka Igarta-De Vera, danced during the kahiko portion of the Merrie Monarch Festival competition Friday. The Kapahulu-based halau was declared overall winner of the 53rd Merrie Monarch Festival.

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The wahine of Halau o Ka Ua Kani Lehua, shown here during the kahiko portion of the festival Friday, were the winners of three categories: wahine overall, wahine kahiko and wahine auana.

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Kayli Ka‘iulani Carr, center, of Halau Hi‘iakainamakalehua, won the Miss Aloha Hula title Thursday. Her kumu are Robert Ke‘ano Ka‘upu IV, left, and Lono Padilla.

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Halau Na Mamo o Pu‘uanahulu was declared the overall winner on Saturday at the Merrie Monarch Festival. The audience sang “Hawaii Aloha” and raised their hands at the end of the festival, joined by the kane of Halau Na Mamo o Pu‘uanahulu, who were still on stage after accepting their overall award.

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The kane of Halau Na Mamo o Pu‘uanahulu, under the direction of kumu William “Sonny” Ching and Lopaka Igarta-De Vera, danced during the kahiko portion of the Merrie Monarch Festival competition Friday. The Kapahulu-based halau was declared overall winner of the 53rd Merrie Monarch Festival.

HILO >> A common theme running through many of the mele chosen for the 53rd Merrie Monarch Festival was continuation and rebirth.

The competition concluded Saturday night, naming Halau Na Mamo o Pu‘uanahulu under the direction of kumu William “Sonny” Ching and Lopaka Igarta-De Vera of Oahu as the overall winner.

This year is the Kapahulu-based halau’s 30th anniversary, said Igarta-De Vera; the halau’s kane and wahine decided to perform mele by Ching’s grandmother Lena Nahulu Guerrero.

“We came out here to represent the legacy of our halau,” said Igarta-De Vera. “We just wanted to represent her and our family and to enjoy our 30th anniversary at the Merrie Monarch. So this was not expected. Not at all.”

WINNERS CIRCLE

OVERALL WINNER
» Halau Na Mamo o Pu’uanahulu, kumu William “Sonny” Ching and Lopaka Igarta-De Vera

WAHINE KAHIKO
» Halau o ka Ua Kani Lehua, kumu Johnny Lum Ho

WAHINE AUANA
» Halau o ka Ua Kani Lehua, kumu Johnny Lum Ho

WAHINE OVERALL
» Halau o ka Ua Kani Lehua, kumu Johnny Lum Ho

KANE KAHIKO
» Halau Hula ‘O Kahikilaulani, kumu Nahokuokalani Gaspang

KANE AUANA
» Halau Na Mamo o Pu’uanahulu, kumu William “Sonny” Ching and Lopaka Igarta-De Vera

KANE OVERALL
» Halau Na Mamo o Pu’uanahulu, kumu William “Sonny” Ching and Lopaka Igarta-De Vera

MISS ALOHA HULA
» Kayli Ka’iulani Carr, kumu Robert Ke’ano Ka’upu IV and Lono Padilla

A total of 29 groups — 20 wahine and nine kane — brought their best to the hallowed stage at Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium for the group kahiko (ancient-style) and group auana (modern-style) competitions Friday and Saturday nights. On Thursday night 12 solo dancers vied for the title of Miss Aloha Hula, which went to Kayli Ka‘iulani Carr of Halau Hi‘iakainamakalehua.

The procession of dancers that took to the stage to tell the stories of their ancestors or the beauty of a particular valley or mountain in these islands affirmed that hula is not only alive, but will continue well into the future.

Kumu hula Niuli‘i Heine made an emotional debut at the competition, taking the reins for Na Pualei o Likolehua this year in place of her mother, kumu Leina‘ala Kalama Heine, who died in September. To honor her mother, Niuli‘i Heine’s dancers performed a moving kahiko, “Haumea,” celebrating the late kumu who nurtured generations of leaders and dancers.

The first major cultural impacts of rapid ohia death, a quickly spreading fungal disease that has afflicted an estimated 34,000 acres of forest on Hawaii island, could be felt at the state’s largest annual hula competition. The ohia tree’s lehua blossoms are among the most exalted of lei, and considered the kinoloau, or physical manifestations of various Hawaiian gods and goddesses. The ohia lehua is also among the first plants to grow back on new lava flows.

Many kumu were faced with difficult decisions about how to adorn their dancers. There is no known remedy for the disease, which is limited to the Big Island. What the situation made clear, though, is how precious nature is to hula, and why it needs to be cared for, according to kumu hula Robert Ke‘ano IV of Halau Hi‘iakainamakalehua, which decided not to gather or use lehua this year.

“Look how beautiful, how spiritual dancers become when you wear that adornment,” he said. “As a kinolau it inspires the dancer, it inspires the body because we dance about the elements.”

Before the competition, Niuli‘i Heine brought her halau to a spot overlooking Kilauea caldera at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park to pay respect to Pele. Seeing signs of remaining healthy ohia lehua trees, with red blooms up there, she said, was symbolic of hope.

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