POSTED: 11:56 p.m. HST, Apr 24, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 03:23 p.m. HST, Apr 25, 2014
HILO >> Ke'alohilani Tara Eliga Serrao of Ka La 'Onohi Mai O Ha'eha'e took the lead last night, winning the title of Miss Aloha Hula 2014 at the 51st Merrie Monarch Festival.
Serrao, 23, of Aiea, scored 1,142 points, soaring to the top and making history as Miss Aloha Hula exactly 20 years after her kumu Tracie Lopes won the title. She also won the Hawaiian Language Award.
The Kamehameha Schools graduate was 52 points ahead of second place winner Kili Lai of Keolalaulani Halau 'Olapa O Laka.
"If felt good," Serrao said simply of her time on the stage last night. "It just felt good."
For kahiko, her voice was confident and strong as she performed "A Ka La'i Au I Mauliola," a name chant in honor of Princess Ruth Ke'elikolani, which takes place in a part of Puna where the sun rises. For 'auana, she danced "Ke 'Ala Ka'u I Honi" honoring Queen Lili'uokalani with expression and grace.
Serrao comes from several generations of hula dancers. Both her father and mother danced for the late kumu hula O'Brian Eselu, who was Lopes' kumu when she took the 1994 Miss Aloha Hula title.
Lopes has known Serrao since she was a baby, and was speechless and overcome with emotion after last night's win. In an earlier interview, she had said she hoped her students could experience the same joy that she did when competing at the festival 20 years ago.
"Just very happy," said kumu Keawe Lopes, when asked for his reaction. "It's always our goal to make sure the elders of the hula are pleased with what we do. Today, this is a good validation."
A total of 13 dancers vied for the Miss Aloha Hula title Thursday night.
Sarah Kapuahelani Sterling of Halau Mohala 'Ilima took third place, with 1,082 points; Amber Kanoelani Rosenberg of Halau Na Mamo O Pu'uanahulu took fourth, with 1,079 points, followed by Nicole Nalani Ishibashi of Halau Ka Lei Mokihana o Lena'ala in fifth, with 1,076 points.
Last year's Miss Aloha Hula, Manalani Hokoana English of Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka of Maui, bid adieu with a special performance of three mele.
The Merrie Monarch Festival continues with the group kahiko (ancient-style) hula competition Friday night and the group 'auana (modern-style) hula competition Saturday night, followed by the announcement of winners and awards.
Miss Aloha Hula results:
>> Ke'alohilani Tara Eliga Serrao, Ka La 'Onohi Mai O Ha'eha'e, Kumu Hula Tracie and Keawe Lopes, 1,142
>> Kilioulaninuiamamaohoopiiwahinekapualokeokalaniakea Lai, Keolalaulani Halau 'Olapa O Laka, Kumu Hula Aloha Dalire, 1,089
>> Sarah Kapuahelani Sterling, Halau Mohala 'Ilima, Kumu Hula: Mapuana de Silva, 1,082
>> Amber Kanoelani Rosenberg, Halau Na Mamo O Pu'uanahulu, Kumu Hula William Kahakuleilehua Haunu'u "Sonny" Ching & Lopaka Igarta-De Vera, 1,079
>> Nicole Nalani Ishibashi, Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina'ala, Kumu Hula Leina'ala Pavao Jardin, 1,076