The performances were amazing, the costumes incredible, the music outstanding -- but one hālau stood out above the rest at this year's Merrie Monarch and went home with a total sweep of all the top awards!
The kāne of Kawailiʻulā, under the direction of Kumu Chinky Māhoe were the night's big winners-- taking home the top prize for kāne Kahiko, Auana, highest score and overall.
It was another amazing night of hula in celebration of the Merrie Monarch's 50tj Anniversary, and once again it was a packed house at the Edith Kanaka'ole Stadium in Hilo.
29 hālau took the stage Saturday for Auana night.
Once again, first up were the kāne of Nā Pua Me Ke Aloha from Carson, California under the direction of Kumu Sissy Kaio. They performed "Ho'okipa Pāka", a mele about a well-known surfing site located off Ho'okipa Park near Pā'ia.
Up next, Healani's Hula Hālau & Music Academy under the direction of Kumu Beverly Healani Sun Lan Apana Muraoka from Kapa'a, Kaua'i. The five ladies danced to "Aloha Kalaniana'ole", a mele about the many contributions Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana'ole made during his short lifetime -- including the creation of the Hawaiian Homestead Act which made lands available for Hawaiians.
The kāne of Hālau Ke Kia'i A O Hula performing "He Aloha Nō 'O Honolulu" under the direction of Kumu Kapi'olani Ha'o were up next. Their mele describes the sights spotted along a journey traveling by ship from Honolulu to Kona in the 1900s.
Keali'ika'apunihonua Ke'ena A'o Hula was the fourth to perform with "Lei Hala O Kaua'i". Their kumu hula, Kumu Leimomi Ho, danced in the first Merrie Monarch hula competition in 1971. Last night's kahiko performance was her hālau's return to the Festival after a 10 year absence.
The wāhine of Hālau Keali'i O Nālani performed "'Ahulili" under the direction of Kumu Keali'i Ceballos in this symbolic mele about a woman who is jealous because the "'ohu kau kuahiwi" (mountain-cloaking mist) never settles upon the mountain peak of 'Ahulili.
The Academy of Hawaiian Arts of Oakland, California, under the direction of Kumu Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu, were a clear crowd favorite last night. The kāne performed "He Aloha No Nā Pua" in honor of King David Kalākaua. It was originally performed as a kahiko for the kāne division in 1980, but has been set to music for tonight's auana competition.
Nā Pua Me Ke Aloha's sister hālau, Hālau O Lilinoe, was up next with their performance of "E 'Ike I Ka Nani A 'O Poli'ahu" under the direction of Kumu Sissy Kaio and her daughter, Lilinoe McCormack. This beautiful mele honors Poli'ahu, the goddess of the snows of Mauna Kea.
Hometown hālau, Hālau O Ke Ānuenue, got the crowd cheering as Kumu Glenn Kelena Vasconcellos' ladies took the stage to perform "Kamalani O Keaukaha", which speaks of the friendliness of the people who live in the Hawaiian Homestead of Keaukaha.
Kumu Ed Collier's Hālau O Nā Pua Kukui kāne were up next with a performance of "Kaulana 'O Waimānalo", composed by Samuel Kamuela Nae'ole about his hometown.
The ladies of Hālau Hula Nā Pua U'i O Hawai'i under the direction of Kumu Etua Lopes were the next to take the stage. They performed "Palisa", a mele about a trip to Paris and the beauty of the international city.
Keolalaulani Hālau 'Ōlapa O Laka performed "'Ilima Beauty", under the direction of Kumu Aloha Dalire -- the first Miss Hula in 1971. This was the hālau's 40th time competing at Merrie Monarch, which featured three generations of Dalire women performing together.
The kāne of Ka Pā Hula O Ka Lei Lehua, under the direction of Kumu Snowbird Bento, performed "Ka Lehua A'o Kekaha". Their mele is about a dear companion who leaves Kekaha, Kaua'i is yearned for, and finally returns.
Miss Aloha Hula Manalani English's Maui hālau, Hālau Nā Lei Kaumaka O Uka, was up next with a performance of "Halema'uma'u", a mele about the crater of Halema'uma'u where Pele dwells. It was composed by renowned falsetto singer Bill Ali'iloa Lincoln.
Their auana was followed by Hālau Hula Ka Lehua Tuahine dancing "Wahiika'ahu'ula", under the direction of Kumu Ka'ilihiwa Vaughan-Darval. The name means "wrapped in the royal feather cloak", and the mele is being performed in honor of the royal lineage of the Kawānanakoa family.
Last up before intermission was hometown Hilo hālau, Hālau Hula 'O Kahikilaulani. The kāne performed "Ka Waimea Swing", which describes a fun night out on the town of Waimea, Hawai'i Island.
Another hometown hālau, Hālau O Ka Ua Kani Lehua, under the direction of Kumu Johnny Lum Ho, were the first to perform following intermission. The ladies performed "Huaka'i Hele I Puna", which describes a huaka'i hele or journey through Puna, highlighting the stories Kumu Ho was told as a child.
Up next was the ladies of Ka Pā Hula O Kauanoe O Wa'ahila with their performance of "Kananaka", under the direction of Kumu Maelia Loebenstein Carter. The wāhine danced two versions of this mele-- which tells the tale of Kananaka, a siren who swam in the surf outside of Lahaina, luring men to come and play.
The kāne of Hālau Kekuaokalā'au'ala'iliahi were next on stage with "Laupāhoehoe Hula", under the direction of Kumu 'Iliahi and Haunani Paredes. This mele was written by Mary Kawena Pukui about a handsome and athletic boy from Laupāhoehoe who climbs mountains, paddles canoe and is full of life.
Hometown Hilo ladies of Hālau Hula 'O Kahikilaulani, under the direction of Kumu Nāhōkuokalani Gaspang, performed "Charles E. King Medley" in honor of one of the most influential composers of Hawaiian music.
Following their performance was the auana "Eō E Nā Kumu Hula O Hawai'i Nei" from Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leinā'ala, under the direction of Kumu Leinā'ala Pavao Jardin. The ladies from Kalāheo, Kaua'i danced a tribute acknowledging the kumu hula who come to Hilo to perform.
Up next were the kāne of Ke Kai O Kahiki, under the direction of Kumu La'akea Perry. Their performance of "Mele Lāna'i" describes the love and beauty that exists on Lāna'i.
Ka Lā 'Ōnohi Mai O Ha'eha'e, under the direction of Kumu Tracie and Keawe Lopes, performed "Ka'iulani". The ladies from Kahauiki, O'ahi danced this mele for Princess Ka'iulani, in which she is likened to the 'lima and lehua blossoms.
Hula Hālau 'O Kamuela was up next with their auana "He Mele Aloha No Puna", under the direction of Kumu Kau'ionālani Kamana'o and Kunewa Mook. It tells the tale of Pele setting off unto unknown seas in search of a new home.
The kāne of Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka Lā performed "'Eleu Mikimiki", under the direction of Kumu Kaleo Trinidad. Composed by Charles E. King, this mele urges one to be quick and energetic in order to win their heart's desire.
Following their performance, the ladies of Hālau Hula Olana, under the direction of Kumu Olana and Howard Ai, with their auana "Mele No Kaho'olawe", which celebrates the victorious return of the island of Kaho'olawe to the people of Hawai'i. It was danced in dedication to those who have contributed to Kaho'olawe's restoration.
The wāhine of Hālau I Ka Wēkiu were up next. Kumu Karl Veto Baker and Michael Casupang decided to only bring their uniki class this year, so instead of the 30+ ladies who perform, only 7 danced to "Ku'u Pua Punahele". Kumu Baker and Casupang composed this mele, specifically for their first graduating class, to feature one of their favorite flowers, the lehau mamo blossom.
Kumu Chinky Māhoe's kāne of Kawaili'ulā were next with their performance of "Green Rose Hula/ Pilialoha". The two songs, which speak of courtship and love, were intertwined.
Former Miss Aloha Hula, Lilinoe Sterling's hālau, Hālau Mōhala 'Ilima, under the direction of Kumu Māpuana de Silva danced "Ninipo Ho'onipo", a mele which first appeared in Queen Lili'uokalani's Buke Mele Hawaii in 1876.
The kāne of Hālau I Ka Wēkiu won first place in the kāne kahiko division last year and first place overall. They performed "Mahalo E Hilo Hanakahi", a mele which speaks of the unforgettable love that visitors receive from the gracious people of Hilo. It was dedicated in honor of the late Aunty Dottie Thompson and late Uncle George Na'ope, who are credited with reinvigorating the Festival when they introduced the hula competition to Merrie Monarch in 1971. Aunty Luana Kawelu, Aunty Dottie's daughter and current Festival Director, is also honored in this song for carrying their traditions forward.