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For many fans, Ho’ike was reason enough to head to Hilo

HILO >> For some Merrie Monarch Festival fans, tickets to Wednesday night’s Ho’ike performance at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium were enough to make the trip to Hilo well worth it this year.

Some, like Mike Nixon and Cindy Tigh of San Diego, were able to secure tickets only to Ho’ike, but not the competition this year.

“Outstanding,” said Nixon, upon exiting. “I loved every bit of it.”

Tigh, who lives part time in San Diego and Keauhou on Hawaii island, said: “It was amazing seeing all the original winners. I cried.”

Tigh said she sent in requests for the $5 Ho’ike tickets “on the dime,” with the required Jan. 15 postmark date, but was not able to get any. She kept calling the Merrie Monarch office to check on ticket availability, and her persistence paid off. Though they won’t be able to watch the hula competition this year, not having tickets, they are happy to have been able to watch this year’s Ho’ike.

The Ho’ike is usually free, but the festival committee charged $5 per person this year because of the special program commemorating its 50th year. Next year, the Ho’ike will be free again.

Many audience members were touched by the noteworthy, once-in-a-lifetime “chicken skin” performances that will probably never be seen again on stage.

Dancers from 1970s winning women’s halau, The Hau‘oli Hula Maids, ‘Ilima Hula Studio and Na Pualei o Likolehua, graced the stage once again, demonstrating their unique styles.

For the first time ever, Miss Aloha Hulas from five decades were on stage, dancing together.

Starting with kumu hula Aloha Dalire (1971), they went up one by one, in chronological order. The audience was so pleased, they stood up and yelled “Hana hou!” and the Miss Aloha Hulas obliged, this time exhibiting their own unique styles.

The men did not disappoint, either.

Kumu Robert Cazimero brought 50 dancers, past and present, from his Halau Na Kamalei to perform many memorable numbers, among them an intricately choreographed piece about a shark god. Dancers from the Men of Waimapuna, founded by the late kumu hula Darrell Lupenui, performed original numbers from the 1978 competition, when they swept the kane categories.

The evening ended with a showcase and celebration of kumu hula who are also well-accomplished musicians, and the list was lengthy.

The festival continues with the solo Miss Aloha Hula competition tonight, April 4, followed by kahiko (ancient-style) group competition on Friday, and auana (modern-style) group competition as well as awards presentations on Saturday.

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