After the Merrie Monarch Festival was canceled in 2020 to an event without a live audience last year, Maui Halau competing next week is thrilled and grateful to have an in-person crowd, even if it will only be a fraction. thousands of spectators they be used to.
“We are so excited to have an audience,” joked Kumu Hula Kamaka Kukona of Wailuku-based Halau O Ka Hanu Lehua.
“Jokes aside, we are delighted that some of our family members and friends can join us in person. »
‘Iliahi Paredes of Halau Kekuaokala’au’ala’iliahi expressed similar sentiments, saying that he and his wife, fellow Kumu Hula Haunani Paredes, are “excited and grateful” be in front of spectators, who this year will be ohana and halau supporters.
“We look forward to being surrounded by the positive energies of this year’s live audience,” said ‘Iliahi Paredes of the Wailuku-based halau.
“The atmosphere in the arena will be electrifying and we can’t wait,” he added.
Both halau will represent Maui in the hula contest at the 59th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo. The Miss Aloha Hula or Female Soloist contest takes place on Thursday.
Riann Nalani Michiko Fujihara of Halau O Ka Hanu Lehua and Kyleigh Hokuao Manuel-Sagon of Halau Kekuaokala’au’ala’iliahi will both compete in the soloist competition.
The individual halau will then compete on Friday in the hula kahiko, or ancient hula, category. Saturday will be the category ‘auana, or modern hula. It will be followed by rewards.
In 2020, the competition was canceled due to COVID-19. Last year, performances were back on stage in Hilo but recorded without an audience and aired later.
This year, 18 halau will perform in front of the families of the dancers as well as long-time supporters and sponsors of the festival, according to the festival’s website. There were no general public ticket sales for the competition portion.
However, the competition will be broadcast on K5 and streamed live on its website.
Not only is having a live audience special for Kukona and its halau, but this year marks the 15th year since the halau was originally invited to compete with its men, or kane, at the festival in 2007.
As a nod to the anniversary, Kukona said that the 19 Halau women will also dance to “A Ko’olau Au,” in kahiko competition, as the men did 15 years ago.
The dance is taken from the saga of Pele, the volcano goddess, and Pele’s sister, Hi’iaka, recounting the torrential storms Hi’iaka faces on the windward side of Oahu, Kukona explained.
He said the dance was passed down to him from his kumu, Kamamalu Klein, and his kumu, Maiki Aiu.
For the ‘auana, the women will dance to an original composition by Kukona.
“Ha’ena i ka ‘Ehukai,” is about a trip to Kauai over 20 years ago to visit and dance at Ke Ahu A Laka, Kauluapaoa Ke’e, the famous and scary pa hula heiau, an ancient Hawaiian temple or sacred site.
Kukona said the Four Seasons Resort Maui in Wailea, “was so generous” by allowing halau to use the resort’s luau grounds for their big Merrie Monarch rehearsals.
Kukona had to find a place where the halau could plot the big stage that is at Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium in Hilo.
Halau Kekuaokala’au’ala’iliahi is also no stranger to the stadium scene and hula competition. Last year, halau won the wahine division and finished second overall among all halau.
‘Iliahi Paredes said that last year, “Playing without an audience challenged us to do our best, no matter the circumstances.”
“Our haumana (students) rose to the challenge and we are very proud of their achievements,” he added.
This year, the halau of Paredes will bring 22 wahine and nine kane.
Women’s hula kahiko will feature “Pohina Ka Ua” or “misty is the rain.” It dates back to 1878, when Princess Ka’iulani was a toddler. The composition is about Maui and upper Wailuku and its surrounding valleys.
The woman’s hula ‘auana will be “E Ho’i Ke Aloha I Maunawili,” which means, “may love always return to Maunawili.” It was composed by ‘Iliahi Paredes for his grandmother Mary Rebecca Kaleleiki Lee. His grandmother “Mele” was born and raised in Maunawili on Oahu.
For their kahiko competition, the kane will dance to “Ku’u Ipo Kehau,” or “my beloved mist. It was composed for and in honor of Prince Jonah Kuhio.
The ‘auana will be “Ele’io” and is a light mele for the kukini, or swift messenger, of Chief Kaka’alaneo who held court at Keka’a on Maui’s west side. It was also composed by ‘Iliahi Paredes.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at [email protected]