The olelo Hawai'i word ho'ike means "to show" or "exhibit," and that’s exactly what spectators got from four different dancing groups on Wednesday night at the 2017 Merrie Monarch Festival.
Every year, a handful of halau who are not competing in the kahiko or 'auana nights are invited to a showcase their skillsets at Merrie Monarch, but only one halau from Hilo is asked to open Ho'ike every single year.
The stadium where Merrie Monarch takes place is named in honor of Aunty Edith Kanaka'ole – a revered dancer, chanter, and composer – who is considered one of the preeminent kumu hula of Hawai'i.
That's why the opening number each year at Ho'ike is given to Aunty Edith's family halau, Halau o Kekuhi – not only because of the support she lent to the festival from the very beginning, but for the standard at which the halau has set the bar for hula kahiko.
The halau considers their performance the first offering or sacrifice on the Merrie Monarch stage, which they compare to an altar.
Wednesday’s 20-minute set, under the direction of Kumu Nalani Kanka'ole, was one of the most highly-anticipated performances of the year. Because Ho'ike is the only night that doesn't require tickets, a line for first-come, first-serve tickets formed more than 12 hours before doors even opened
Among the other Ho'ike performers were a Filipino folk dance group out of the San Francisco Bay area, and a troupe from Mexico affiliated with a halau in Hilo.
Halau Kala'akeakauikawekiu, a group of keiki hula competitors out of Kona, closed out the night.