From Papakolea to Hilo, this halau packed perseverance for Merrie Monarch 2021

For Halau Hula O Napunaheleonapua, hula practice is in a converted carport in Papakolea.
Published: Jun. 27, 2021 at 2:30 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 28, 2021 at 6:09 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For Halau Hula O Napunaheleonapua, hula practice is in a converted carport in Papakolea.

They’re one of the selected halau competing in this year’s Merrie Monarch Hula Festival in Hilo.

For their kahiko or ancient style dance, the wahine are finding inspiration from the strength and resilience of Queen Liliukalani.

“Our mele is Puuwai O Liliu. It talks about Liliu during the overthrow and how she didn’t want bloodshed for the people,” said kumu hula Rich Pedrina.

For their auana, or modern style of dance, their movements and mele are about Manoa, and paying tribute to kumu hula Leinaala Kalama Heine.

The dancers find inspiration all around, including in each other.

“A lot of my women are mothers, how they protect themselves and how we were resilient in getting through this pandemic,” said Pedrina.

In March 2020, the Merrie Monarch Festival made the decision to cancel the competition because of the global emergency and for these wahine, a first time competing at the prestigious competition would not happen.

[Read more: 2021 Merrie Monarch Festival television schedule: When and where to watch]

“For me to have to tell them that it’s canceled, I knew it was going to break their heart. That was really hard for me,” said Pedrina.

“There’s no cancelling Merrie Monarch. That wasn’t even a thought,” said long-time dancer Erica Sacatropez.

After a more than year of the pandemic, constant pivots and new stringent COVID protocols including testing and a 5 day isolation period, this halau says they are ready.

“It’s a lot of excitement. Anxiety, but good anxiety and to know that it’s actually happening this time,” said Sacatropez.

“It’s starting to really hit me. I look at the date. It’s like oh wow,” said Pedrina.

While the COVID-19 vaccine is not a Merrie Monarch requirement, Pedrina made his own mandate to protect himself and the group.

“If you want to go, you had to get vaccinated. If not, you can’t go,” said Pedrina.

“We were all able to get vaccinated so we feel even safer with each other,” said Sacatropez.

That means after a year of challenges and social separation, Napunaheleonapua is even closer together and ready to grace the stage at Merrie Monarch.

“I told them think about your life, what you’ve done with yourself, how you’ve been strong with what you are doing,” said Pedrina.

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