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Miss Aloha Hula devotes life to dance

By Nina Wu


HILO » For Rebecca Lilinoekekapahauomaunakea Sterling of Halau Mohala ‘Ilima, the path to the Miss Aloha Hula title was one of hard work and dedication as well as love for the dance, language and culture of Hawaii.

Sterling, 24, of Kailua, was chosen Miss Aloha Hula on Thursday at the 49th annual Merrie Monarch Festival.

The Kamehameha Schools graduate, known to most friends and family as Lilinoe, has been dancing with kumu hula Mapuana de Silva's Halau Mohala ‘Ilima in Lanikai since the age of 4.

Sterling recalled that as a child there were times she wanted to quit and focus on sports or other things, but she thanks her mother for keeping her going in hula — a choice that would later become her own.

She spent more than a year preparing for the Miss Aloha Hula competition, and even took time off as a Hawaiian studies major at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

"It's definitely been a journey," she said. "All kinds of different things happen to you as you grow up and hula, I think, is one of the things that has grounded me and kept me in a good mindset."

Sterling says hula will always be a part of her life because of its intrinsic rewards, be it a deeper understanding of her own culture or a strong bond with others in the halau.

"There's no way I could have gotten to the place I did without my hula sisters," she said.

On Thursday evening, Sterling delivered a strong and solid performance of her kahiko (ancient-style hula), "He Inoa No Kaleimakali‘i," a mele (song) honoring Kaleimakali‘i, the 19th-century ancestor of the last Hawaiian families to live at Kalia, Waikiki.

It held special meaning for her because she was dancing a hula about her own ancestors and their steadfast resolve resisting development on their beloved coastline. She researched her own genealogy for the mele, which was composed by de Silva's husband, Kihei de Silva.

For her auana (modern, flowing hula), she offered a dignified, elegant performance of "He Inoa No Na Keiki O Ka Bana Lahui," best known today as "Kaulana Na Pua," a song protesting the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani.

The intentions behind presenting that hula, she said, were to remind others of the importance of the Hawaiian identity and to instill pride in being Hawaiian.

"It's important for us to remember that our kupuna struggled a lot and fought for things that come so easy for us right now," she said.

The dance belonged to a repertoire from de Silva's kumu hula, Aunty Maiki Aiu Lake, and was taught to the halau by Kealoha Wong. De Silva felt Sterling was the right dancer to share the rarely performed mele at Merrie Monarch.

Ellen Prendergast, the queen's friend, composed the song. It just so happened that Prendergast's birthday fell on the day that Sterling performed it.

De Silva described Sterling's performances at the competition afterward as "pono," saying it was done properly and met a certain level of satisfaction.

"In her presentations, she was very much the messenger of the time period and family members they represent," de Silva said. "As a messenger, she was connected to all the people."

Since she started dancing hula, Sterling was a natural and loved it, said her mother, Paula Sterling. Younger daughter Kapuahealani enrolled in the halau as well.

Paula Sterling and her husband, Wayne Ho‘olae Sterling, are in Hilo for the weekend to support their daughters in the competition. She described Thursday night's victory as "absolutely incredible."

"I was just so happy for her, after seeing her dedication over the years," said Paula Sterling. "It was a surprise for the family. I know the kupuna would have been proud."

The competition concludes this evening with group auana, followed by award presentations.

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mchlshntn wrote:
Her auana was so smooth, looked like she was floating on a cushion of air.
on April 14,2012 | 07:19AM
allie wrote:
Tremendous talent and very gracious lady
on April 14,2012 | 10:08AM
hukihei wrote:
The content of both pieces are powerful and I thank the kumu and her student for gifting us with mele lahui.
on April 14,2012 | 07:50AM
cojef wrote:
A tear jerker for me. It is wonderful for a person so dedicated to the hula be rewarded. What more can be as satisfying. Kudos to the young lady, and hope she continues her dedication to the hula. The hula should not be allowed to fade away. Kudos and many thanks for your efforts. Mahalo.
on April 14,2012 | 08:17AM
cojef wrote:
oops, I really do not know why? there were no bad comments made.
on April 14,2012 | 08:18AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
It is lovely that she has devoted her life to hula. Obviously she is also devoted to plate lunch.
on April 14,2012 | 09:07AM
LanaUlulani wrote:
What a pilau comment. Have some class instead of engaging in immature attacks based on the superficial like LOOKS!

on April 14,2012 | 10:00AM
Notawannabe wrote:
While you appear to be devoted to eating turds.
on April 14,2012 | 12:14PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Aloha to you too.
on April 14,2012 | 01:46PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
No need go all Ashley Judd on me. Just saying Kika knows her way around a bowl of stew. Lots of dire health consequences to morbid obesity.
on April 14,2012 | 12:31PM
LanaUlulani wrote:
on April 14,2012 | 09:59AM
tutunona wrote:
In watching her hula, it made me proud of her profound talent and beauty, keep up the good work girl and don't let jealous people with unkind remarks hold you back......someday you will be the kumu........blessings on you
on April 14,2012 | 10:54AM
leimills wrote:
She was so u'i - and I was able to dance this mele with her as her kumu hula's kumu was none other than Master Kumu Hula Maiki Aiu Lake. Auntie Maiki taught us this mele and all the kaona when I was 16 years old - feels like a century ago - but watching and enjoying Miss Aloha Hula brought back so many wonderful memories of my first kumu hula. Mahalo nui loa from a very appreciative Tutu. Not too many of us could be qualified to sit in those judges seats as this year's contestants were maika'i and each represented their kumu hula magnificently!
on April 14,2012 | 03:16PM
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