HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly as much time goes into selecting what song to dance, as learning the hula, for Merrie Monarch. Every song is a story, but there's also a story behind how each mele is selected.
Thursday night, Halau o Ka Ua Kanilehua will take the Merrie Monarch stage at Edith Kanaka'ole and more than 5,000 people will be sitting in the stadium, while countless others are watching from all over the world.
"It seems like it's a dream, you know? But every day you wake up you see different things happening but this is the place where the competition is going to be so-- it's not a dream," said Kumu Johnny Lum Ho.
But it is dream come true for Auli'i De Sa, who will be competing for Miss Aloha Hula. She says she's especially excited about her kahiko, Waiholoku'i.
"It talks about a place in Keokea, which is where my Grandfather grew up so it's so sentimental to my Tutu and she can't wait to watch it and hear the story," explained De Sa.
The halau's group auana is also about the Puna area, Ka Huaka'i Hele I Puna, was written by their Kumu.
"It's actually his own personal recollections of stories that he was told as a child from his mother and other Kupuna of Puna," described Megan Aiona, who has been dancing with Halau o Ka Ua Kanilehua for almost 25 years now. "I think this is something very Uncle Johnny's style being that we're telling about some place that we can go to and see and something that is a part of our life and a part of the Big Island."
Kaua'i will also be honored. The halau's group kahiko, Ka Lo'i Pa'akai o Hanapepe, is a tribute to the Loa Family.
"In 2010 we went and stayed with Uncle Frank Santos and watched how they continue to make salt at the salt patches in Hanapepe, and so our kahiko is about that process and really honoring that family and what they do," explained Brandy Serikaku, another dancer who's been with the halau for more than two decades.
It's particularly special for Pi'ilani Kali, because it's her 'ohana she'll be dancing about.
"My grandpa's been - he's been doing this for a long time," said Kali, with tears in her eyes. "For my family, it's just one of those things we have to take care of and malama. It's just really important to us to keep it within our family and to make sure everybody knows about it and takes care."
The ladies of Halau o Ka Ua Kanilehua will take the stage to compete as a group for the first time Thursday night.
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