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Kahiko night presented innovation and tradition

By Nina Wu

LAST UPDATED: 02:01 a.m. HST, Apr 14, 2012

HILO » If any one halau stood out at the group kahiko (ancient-style) hula competition at the 49th Merrie Monarch Festival on Friday night, it would be kumu Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu's Academy of Hawaiian Arts.

The kane danced a dynamic mele hula composed by Ho'omalu honoring the male and female gods of fishing, with plenty of spearing action. The wahine danced an uncommon form of hula called "hula Mu'umu'u," which depicted movements of physically challenged people. Their stances were wide, and gestures masculine and warrior-like as they stomped their feet and shook their featherless 'uli 'uli.

Both numbers were guaranteed crowd-pleasers.

A total of 30 groups danced before judges during the festival's kahiko competition on Friday night.

Most halau competing this year are from Oahu, but Maui and Kauai are represented, and there are three from the U.S. mainland including Ho'omalu's Academy from Oakland, Calif.

Unfortunately, no halau from Hawaii Island is competing this year.

While other halau stuck closer to tradition, they were just as innovative in choreography, costumes and use of implements.

Early in the evening, the audience welcomed kumu hula Lani-Girl Kaleiki-AhLo back to Merrie Monarch after a 29-year hiatus. Her halau demonstrated the unique kahiko style of the 'Ilima Hula Studio, using white feather-capped 'uli 'uli for a mele about Lili'uokalani.

Kumu hula Aloha Dalire's Keolalaulani Halau 'Olapa O Laka performed a beautiful rendition of "Hopoe," representing a traditional kahiko set to the beat of a pahu drum.

The mele tells the famous story of how Pele destroys the beloved lehua groves of her younger sister, Hi'iaka, as well as her friend Hopoe in a fit of jealousy over Prince Lohiau.

Three rows of dancers, dressed in green, blue-grey and red pau, perhaps represented dancers from Dalire's halau in Kaneohe, Oahu; Hilo, Hawaii; and San Mateo, Calif.

It was amazing to see how they danced in unison although they were from three different halau locations.

Many numbers were memorable, including the creation chant and tribute to the god Wakea (who established the heavens and all celestial bodies) by the men of kumu hula Snowbird Puananiopaoakalani Bento's Ka Pa Hula O Ka Lei Lehua.

Kumu hula Kaleo Trinidad, who last year had his men dance with the ulili, a rarely seen hula implement, had his ladies do a noho hula (seated hula) with ipu heke this year.

Hula Halau O Kamuela, last year's group hula auana winners, wrapped up the evening with an awesome number using the papa hehi (foot treadleboard) combined with kalaau (hardwood sticks of different lengths).

Many songs honored alii as usual, such as King David Kalakaua, Queen Lili'uokalani and Kamehameha I as well as Princess Pauahi.

Hula dancers took the audience on a journey to many beautiful places on the isles, from the lush valley of Manoa to the summit of Mauna Kea. There were also mele celebrating the beauty Kauai and Molokai.

In an online Merrie Monarch poll, 51.9 percent of voters said their favorite numbers were about Hawaiian legends and gods, followed by praise of chiefs (including hula ma'i, or genital dances), then famous places, a romantic interest and important historical events.

The festival continues with the group hula auana competition tonight (Saturday), followed by the presentation of awards.

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false wrote:
We need to support our halau. This is an expensive contribution to the state of Hawai`i. It should be apart of every school culture. Now that's a thought. The energy, the bonding, the culture all work together to support achievement. Mahalo to all who supported this resplendent window on the past. We are grateful.
on April 14,2012 | 05:16AM
manakuke wrote:
A wonderful 49th Merrie Monarch Festival .
on April 14,2012 | 06:17AM
Eradication wrote:
Overall this Kahiko night was the best I have seen...ever. Halau Hula O Kamuela left everyone in the stadium in awe. Simply magnificent portrayal of Kahiko style hula and impliments. Other Halau were just as impressive. Keeping the basic foundation of ancient and traditional style of hula alive is what Kahiko night is all about and just about every Halau performed maika`i loa!!! I wouldn't want to be judging this competition. It is too close to call. The parade today was just as impressive and the overall celebration of culture in Historic Hilo is thriving. Makes me proud to be Hawaiian and living in Hilo.
on April 14,2012 | 02:44PM
kaleboy wrote:
Hula Halau O Kamuela was awesome. Gave me chicken skin. The other halaus were good. too. Its going to be close. Good luck to every halau.
on April 14,2012 | 10:09PM
Anonymous wrote:
Hula Halau O Kamuela was awesome. Gave me chicken skin. The other halau's were good to. Going to be a hard one to judge. Good luck to all.
on April 14,2012 | 04:50PM
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