HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) -Halau Hi’iakainamakalehua has produced some of the biggest winners in the hula world so-far this year. They’re already home to Miss Aloha Hula 2019 Taizha Hughes-Kaluhiaokalani. Add to their list of winners their latest champions: Master and Miss Keiki Hula 2019.
Zyon Telles-Kuwahara won the title of Master Keiki Hula, and Kaimana Friez walked away as the 2019 Miss Keiki Hula.
Both are products of Oahu-based Halau Hi’iakainamakalehua under the direction of Kumu Hula Robert Keano Ka’upu IV and Lono Padilla.
Both newly crowned keiki hula stars said they were shocked after they were announced as the winners Thursday night at the Blaisdell Arena.
“I couldn’t believe it. It sounded too good to be true. I didn’t believe what was happening,” Telles-Kuwahara said.
While most 11-year-olds spend their summer at the beach or with friends, their kumu said these keiki — like many young hula dancers — spent the last few months tirelessly perfecting their performances.
“They were very dedicated alright. Even when we wanted breaks, they were like, ‘Uhh we gotta practice,’” Kumu Padilla said.
“You cannot say that kids don’t work hard. They work hard and they take a beating! I mean they take a beating. They get up and they’re still kicking,” Kumu Keano added.
The seemingly endless hours of practice paid off for the pair.
Friez described her time dancing on stage simply as “magical.”
“As soon as I stepped on the stage, I was like, ‘This is my time,’” Telles-Kuwahara added.
“Were so proud of everything that they’ve done. We couldn’t ask for anything more than for them to do their best out on that stage,” Padilla added.
There were a record 29 soloist contestants Thursday night. They came from halau across the state and even Japan.
Friday and Saturday brings the group competition in kahiko and ‘auana. Awards will be given out Saturday evening.
“Such innocence. I think that’s the best thing about Keiki is they’re innocent. Genuine and truthful with how they feel and what they’re doing, and these guys — they tough,” Kumu Keano added.