Miss Aloha Hula 2019 felt spirit of her kupuna on stage at Merrie Monarch Festival
The morning after being crowned Miss Aloha Hula 2019, Taizha Keakealani Hughes-Kaluhiokalani of Honolulu was still processing it all. But there is no doubt that hula is, and always will be, a part of her life.
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HILO >> The morning after being crowned Miss Aloha Hula 2019, Taizha Keakealani Hughes-Kaluhiokalani of Honolulu was still processing it all.
But there is no doubt that hula is, and always will be, a part of her life.
Hughes-Kaluhiokalani, 23, started Tahitian dance at the age of 3, and hula at the age of 8, as a student at Halau Ku Mana, a Hawaiian culture-based charter school in Honolulu.
“I don’t think I could totally understand it, but there was always a magnetic connection between me and hula,” she said. “No matter what happened throughout my life, I was always dancing hula.”
On Thursday, Hughes-Kaluhiokalani represented Halau Hi‘iakainamakalehua of Kalihi, under the direction of kumu hula Robert Ke‘ano Ka‘upu 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.
For kahiko she delivered a solemn oli (chant) and commanded the stage for a hula pahu (hula accompanied by drum) about the royal lineage of Liloa, with references to various heiau in Waipio. Her movements were fluid, at one with the mele and rhythms. For auana she transfixed the audience while expressing the love and affection shared between Liloa and ‘Akahikuleana and their son, ‘Umialiloa.
MISS ALOHA HULA RESULTS
>> Taizha Keakealani Hughes-Kaluhiokalani, Halau Hi‘iakainamakalehua: 1,130
>> Lindsey Kahiehielauna‘ole Miwa Ching, Ka La ‘Onohi Mai O Ha‘eha‘e: 1,119
>> Ka‘imilani Marie Corpuz, Halau Kekuaokala‘au‘ala‘iliahi: 1,114
>> Shirell Ku‘upuamakamae Holokai Paro, Halau Na Mamo o Pu‘uanahulu: 1,088
>> Alyssa Ayumi Ka‘imilani Dolbeare, Hula Halau ‘O Kamuela: 1,075
After winning the competition, Hughes- Kaluhiokalani said she felt “overwhelmed, content, grateful.” When she got on stage, she said, she felt the spirit of her kupuna, or ancestors, coming through.
“It’s probably the closest I’ve ever felt to really embodying my kupuna,” she said. “I felt embraced by them the minute I walked onto the stage.”
Both pieces she performed told the story of her own genealogy, which she spent extensive time researching. She called the process eye-opening, enlightening and humbling.
Her mother, Tainell Yamaguchi, was in the audience, watching proudly.
“It’s so surreal,” said Yamaguchi. “She has practiced so long and hard. Her kumu, their level of dedication, the research, the commitment. It is just outstanding.”
This is the third Miss Aloha Hula win for Halau Hi‘iakainamakalehua in its fourth year competing at Merrie Monarch.
“Oh, my goodness,” said kumu Ka‘upu of Hughes- Kaluhiokalani’s performances Thursday night. “I was so happy.”
Hughes-Kaluhiokalani grew up in Waianae, where she attended Kamaile Academy. After moving to Honolulu, she enrolled at Halau Ku Mana, where she learned hula and Hawaiian. She had a gift for oli, according to her mom. She continued learning Hawaiian at Roosevelt High School.
When she’s not dancing, Hughes-Kaluhiokalani works as a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Honolulu.
What she wants others to know about hula is that it encompasses more than what one sees on the surface.
“Hula’s so much more than just dancing,” she said. “For us as Hawaiians, that’s our lifeline. That’s our direct connect to our kupuna, our ancestors, our direct connect from present to past to future. There’s so much more than just performing. There’s so much than just shows. Hula’s a way of life.”
Thirteen dancers vied for the Miss Aloha Hula title Thursday night at Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium. Last year’s Miss Aloha Hula, Shalia Kamakaokalani, represented Halau Na Lei Kaumaka o Uka of Maui under the direction of kumu Napua Greig.
The Merrie Monarch Festival continues with the group auana (modern-style) hula competition tonight, followed by the announcement of winners and awards.