HILO >> After stellar performances in both kahiko and auana, Taizha Keakealani Hughes-Kaluhiokalani pulled ahead by more than 10 points to win the title of Miss Aloha Hula Thursday night at the 56th Merrie Monarch Festival.
Hughes-Kaluhiokalani, 23, represented Halau Hiʻiakainamakalehua of Kalihi, Oahu, under the direction of kumu hula Robert Keʻano Kaʻupu IV and Lono Padilla. With a score of 1,130, she pulled 11 points ahead of first runner-up Lindsey Ching.
She also won the Hawaiian Language Award.
“Overwhelmed, content, grateful,” said Hughes-Kaluhiokalani, when asked how she felt afterwards. “My kupuna came through.”
For kahiko, she gave a solemn, striking performance about the royal lineage of Liloa, with references to various heiau in Waipio. For auana, she transfixed the audience while telling of the love and affection between Liloa and ‘Akahikuleana and their son, ‘Umialiloa.
This is the third Miss Aloha Hula win for Halau Hiʻiakainamakalehua in its fourth year competing at Merrie Monarch.
“Oh, my goodness,” said kumu Robert Ke‘ano Ka‘upu IV of the performance. “I was so happy.”
Ka‘upu said Hughes-Kaluhiokalani was telling the story of her own genealogy in both pieces.
A total of 13 dancers vied for the Miss Aloha Hula title Thursday night at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium. Last year’s Miss Aloha Hula was Shalia Kapuauʻionalani Kikuyo Kamakaokalani of Maui. Kamakaokalani represented Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka under the direction of kumu hula Napua Greig.
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.
Judges this year were Maelia Loebenstein Carter, Vicky Holt Takamine, Nalani Kanaka‘ole Zane, Noenoelani Zuttermeister Lewis, Nani Lim Yap, Etua Lopes and Keali‘i Reichel.
Miss Aloha Hula results:
>> Taizha Keakealani Hughes-Kaluhiokalani, Halau Hiʻiakainamakalehua, 1,130
>> Lindsey Kahiehielaunaʻole Miwa Ching, Ka La ʻOnohi Mai O Haʻehaʻe, 1,119
>> Kaʻimilani Marie Corpuz, Halau Kekuaokalaʻauʻalaʻiliahi, 1,114
>> Shirell Kuʻupuamakamae Holokai Paro, Halau Na Mamo O Pu‘uanahulu, 1,088
>> Alyssa Ayumi Kaʻimilani Dolbeare, Hula Halau ʻO Kamuela, 1,075