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From small town to big stage, a Hawaii Island halau makes its Merrie Monarch debut

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 8:17 AM HST|Updated: Jul. 5, 2021 at 8:19 AM HST
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VOLCANO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nestled near the largest district on the island of Hawaii sits the small, tight-knit community of Volcano.

It is home to Halau Ke ‘Olu Makani O Mauna Loa.

“I remember when I was little I would just be so excited we would ask kumu, ‘Kumu, when is it our turn, when is it our turn?’ And I’ve always just dreamed of our halau being able to represent our culture in such a prestigious and viewed arena,” said Jessica Anahu, of Halau Ke ‘Olu Makani O Mauna Loa.

After 27 years, they made their debut on the biggest stage for hula in the world at the Merrie Monarch Festival.

“Some of them have been dancing with me forever and their loyalty and this culmination of seeing them on that big stage is probably what I had more than likely imagined, but had pushed that idea so far in the back of my head because never did I think it would be us,” said Kumu Hula Meleana Manuel, of Halau Ke ‘Olu Makani O Mauna Loa.

Each halau was judged in more than 12 categories, including their posture and their adornments. And it was all captured from cameras not only on stage, but up above as well.

“Dancing in front of your own community is hard because, you know, hometown people expect,” Manuel said.

The halau was supposed to compete in 2020, but that was canceled because of the pandemic.

It was a night of firsts — not only for the group, but for the composer of the song they’re performing to as well: “Skyflower,” or “Pualani”, written by Manuel’s high school classmate John Doza H.B. Enos.

“The culmination, you know, is also for our halau all of these years and is finally coming to the big stage and also for his mele that was written that long ago and that’ll be the first time on the stage as well,” Manuel said.

“I wish my kumu could see it because that’s all we do is we just want to make our kumu proud, to see your kumu smile, and of course, everyone will say ‘oh I’m sure he’s watching’ and I’m sure too. But I would just love to see his face.”

Although they are dancing with different people in mind, the one thought they’ll have in common is representing as the hometown halau.

“For us to showcase our small, little community of Volcano, then we’ve done what we set out to do,” Manuel said.

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