HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's ʻauana night at the Merrie Monarch Festival! 23 hālau from all over the state, including three from California, have been invited to this year's competition. Tonight their mele, or songs, will feature a more modern or contemporary style of hula.
All eyes will be on last year's overall winners -- the kāne of Halau Hula 'O Kawaili'ulā who dance under the direction of kumu hula Chinky Māhoe in Kailua, O'ahu. Last year, their 'auana "Green Rose Hula/Pilialoha" won first place. This year they're dancing "Pānini Pua Kea" about the white flowered cactus that represents a fair sweetheart amid all beautiful flowers.
Last year's ʻauana winners in the wahine category, Keolalaulani Hālau ʻŌlapa O Laka under the direction of Kumu Aloha Dalire, won with "'Ilima Beauty". This is the hālau's 41st 10 time competing at Merrie Monarch. This year, they'll be performing "E kuʻu Lei Pua Kenikeni", which speaks of the love a parent has for their child.
Another group everyone will be watching is Hālau Mōhala 'Ilima under the direction of kumu hula Māpuana de Silva in Ka'ohao, O'ahu. They took third place in the wahine 'auana category, along with wahine overall, when they danced "Ninipo Ho'onipo", a mele which first appeared in Queen Lili'uokalani's Buke Mele Hawaii in 1876. This year they're dancing "Kuilima Hula", which speaks of special places in Kahuku. A crowd favorite, Mōhala 'Ilima often chooses old ʻauana mele that people haven't heard in some time and brings them to life on stage.
The competition ends Saturday after the last of 28 'auana performaces, and will be immediately followed by the awards presentation.