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Family affair

Kapua Dalire-Moe enhances her halau's performances with an expressive style that is steeped in tradition

By Nina Wu

LAST UPDATED: 11:35 a.m. HST, Feb 12, 2014

With a careful eye, kumu hula Kapua Dalire-Moe watches her dancers to make sure their lines are straight as they practice their auana number. The ladies will be performing "Ma‘ema‘e Moloka‘i," a new mele by Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole celebrating the people and sights of the Friendly Isle.


This is the second of three stories providing a glimpse into the lives of three kumu hula and their halau as they prepare for the 49th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo:

>> Sunday: Lani-Girl Kaleiki-AhLo of ‘Ilima Hula Studio
>> Today: Kapua Dalire-Moe of Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniakea
>> Tuesday: Manu‘aikohana Boyd of Halau o ke ‘A‘ali‘i Ku Makani


Live broadcasts of the 49th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival begin at 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday on KFVE The Home Team; with livestreaming at

The dancers are smiling as they practice in their Kaneohe studio, which happens to be the same one where Dalire-Moe's grandmother taught.

Every detail matters.

For the kahiko number, which tells of King Kalakaua's voyage around the globe, Dalire-Moe advises dancers to lift their chin during a particular step to add emphasis, even as their eyes are looking downward.

Though both she and her mother, Aloha Dalire, have competed separately at the same Merrie Monarch Festivals, Dalire-Moe, 40, said she has never felt any rivalry.

In fact, she still turns to her mother for advice and her thoughts on mele (song) choices.

"Your mother will never lie to you," she said.

She first competed in Merrie Monarch as a kumu hula in 2007 with her own halau, Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniakea, and has come back every year since then.

While her learning and style are true to the Dalire tradition, Dalire-Moe does put a little bit of her own touch on the choreography.

She has 24 dancers competing in the kahiko (ancient) division and 15 in the auana (modern) division, along with five male dancers competing in both divisions. There would have been one more male dancer, Deandre Brackensick, had he not been among the top eight finalists on "American Idol."

Another student, Desire DeSilva, is a Miss Aloha Hula contestant.

The Dalire lineage stretches far back in hula history, with origins in Raiatea. Kumu hula Aloha Dalire, 62, has competed at Merrie Monarch for nearly 40 years. Her halau, Keolalaulani Halau ‘Olapa O Laka, was founded by her mother, Mary Keolalaulani McCabe Wong, in 1963.

Dalire was the first Miss Hula, as it was then called, in 1971. All three of her daughters have earned the prestigious Miss Aloha Hula title: Kapua in 1991, Kauimaiokalaniakea in 1992 and Keolalaulani, who teaches alongside her mother today, in 1999.

When she sees Dalire-Moe's halau in the competition, the elder kumu hula said she feels a sense of pride.

"It's not about competing," Dalire said. "I think I've moved beyond that."

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