2019ʻs most awarded hālau from Merrie Monarch Festival and the Queen Lili'uokalani Keiki Hula Competition is Hālau Hi'iakaināmakalehua. Led by Kumu Hula Robert Ke'anokealakahikikapoleikamaka'opua Ka'upu IV and Kumu Hula Kauhilonohonua Padilla, their hālau brought home the coveted awards for Miss Aloha Hula, Miss Keiki Hula and Master Keiki Hula. That's the first time that's ever been done.
Talk Story host McKenna Maduli sat down with the pair and to find out what it takes to churn out so many winning soloists. "Our outlook on running a solo has changed in the years," said Ka'upu. "Yes, they have to be a good dancer. For me, I look at the person. Every individual is different. I always tell them you need to make your audience feel something. You need to grab them. You need to take them with you. But you can't do that if you're not feeling anything. Part of it is being genuine." The style of hula that has become their signature has evolved over the years and is built from a combination of dance styles they each learned while growing up. Padilla was influenced by his mother Hokulani Holtit and Holoua Stender and Ka'upu's kumus were Rae Fonseca and Uncle Johnny Lum Ho. "It took a while for us to take all four kumu and mesh them together," said Padilla. "(We) take the best of the four of them and try and translate that to our dancers.
Definitely our women's style comes more from Uncle Johnny. We love how his wahine move and how they express. Our kane style is very much a mix of Uncle Holo and Kumu Rae." "The importance as kumu hula that we try to really install in our students really comes from mom," said Ka'upu. "Yes, we had to kind of create our own style and make sure that all of our kumu were ok with it, ok with what we are doing, what we're perpetuating from each of them because when you look at us we don't look really like Johnny Lum Ho. We don't really look like Ray Fonseca, don't really look like Uncle Holo or mom. We do look like a mesh of them. It took us a few years. Sometimes get(ting) into arguments. It's also our style of dancing and what we were strong in in our respective styles." Padilla said compromises had to happen and Ka'upu adding it's important for them to pay tribute to their various kumu hula and their hula lineage, "we also needed the permissions of our kumu hula. As long as they're good with what we're doing now, we're good."
About Robert Keanokealakahikikapoleikamakaopua Ka'upu IV: Robert Ke'anokealakahikikapoleikamaka'opua Ka'upu IV was born and raised in Keaukaha, Hilo on Hawai'i Island. He was born to Beverly and Robert Kaupu III and has 10 siblings. Ke'ano, as he is often referred to as, started his hula journey at age 6. As a haumana of Kumu Hula Rae Fonseca and Johnny Lum Ho, Ka'upu served as a dancer, chanter, alaka'i, hoʻopaʻa, and choreographer. He has performed across the globe including the continental United States, Japan, Tahiti, Mexico, New Zealand and Europe. In 2002, Ka'upu relocated to Honolulu to dance in some of Hawai'i's most prestigious production shows, and pursue a career in Cosmetology. He is a licensed hairstylist and makeup artist and have styled many celebrities, Kumu Hula and hālau for the past 16 years. His endearing love for hula has led him to complete 'ūniki ceremonies in August 2008 under Kumu Hula Hokulani Holt. He and Lono Padilla are the Kumu Hula of Hālau Hi'iakaināmakalehua based on O'ahu. He has led his hālau to many hula competitions both in Hawaiʻi and Japan where they have garnered many top awards. Some of these awards include back-to-back 1st place awards in the kahiko division in 2017 and 2018, as well as back-to- back titles in the coveted Miss Aloha Hula competition at the Merrie Monarch Festival in 2016 and 2017. His hālau was also awarded the overall title in the kaikamahine division at the Queen Lili'uokalani Keiki Hula competition in 2018 and 2019. Ka'upu and Padilla's most recent accomplishment was leading his students, Taizha Keakeakalani Hughes-Kaluhiokalani, Kaimana Friez and Zyon Blaze Telles-Kuwahara capture the coveted 2019 Miss Aloha Hula, 2019 Miss Keiki Hula and 2019 Master Keiki Hula titles, a record first in the history of hula.
About Kauhilonohonua Padilla: Kauhilonohonua Padilla was born and raised on the island of Maui. Born into a family of Kumu Hula and dancers, Lono's life was surrounded with Hawaiian culture. Under the guidance of his mother Hokulani Holt he learned the ways of his people and the traditions of Hawai'i. After graduating from high school, Padilla moved to O'ahu to attend The University of Hawai'i-Manoa. His mother sent him to dance for Kumu Hula Holoua Stender and Ka Pā Hula O Kamehameha. With them he competed in The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival garnering many awards. Padilla has performed across the globe including the continental United States, Japan, Tahiti, New Zealand and Europe. He has danced throughout the Hawaiian Islands including several years at the legendary Kodak Hula Show until their closing in 2002. In 2005, his mother decided it was time for Padilla to seriously dedicate his life to hula and began his training to become a Kumu Hula. In August 2008 he completed 'ūniki ceremonies and is now Kumu Hula along with Ke'ano Ka'upu of Hālau Hi'iakaināmakalehua.
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