Oahu halau aims for another win at this year’s Merrie Monarch Festival

This year they’ll be dancing to a traditional mele or song about Lunalilo’s journey to America and Mahoe hints their performance will defy expectations.
Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 5:34 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 18, 2022 at 5:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With careful and deliberate steps, the kane of Kawailiula under kumu hula Chinky Mahoe are getting ready for competition at this year’s Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo.

The festival returns to live performances this year in front of an audience.

The Edith Kanakaole Stadium can seat as many as 6,000 people, but it won’t be at full capacity for the competition. Mahoe says the pressure is still high because the people that will be there know hula.

[Special Section: MERRIE MONARCH FESTIVAL]

“This audience that’s going to be there understands hula. They are the families of the halaus,” he said.

This year, they’ll be dancing to a traditional mele or song about Lunalilo’s journey to America and Mahoe hints their performance will defy expectations.

“The kaona to this mele is very different to what everybody has been doing,” said Mahoe.

“That’s all I’m going tell you,” he added, with a smile.

Last year, under strict COVID protocols and with no audience to cheer them on, the renowned stage was quiet and surreal. “We get on to the stage and there’s nobody there and you see all of the judges just sitting there,” said Mahoe.

[Watch their winning performances from 2021 by clicking here.]

For their kahiko or ancient dance, the men went on a journey to Kukaniloko, a sacred site on Oahu where royalty was born.

Dancer Noah Cordeiro says when he hears his kumu chanting, his physical being washes away.

“To have my kumu’s vision to have us almost like a portal using us to show our kupuna and everyone at home what he envisions for the mele and for us to be that channel,” said Cordeiro.

Their auana or modern dance also left everyone with smiles.

“The auana I don’t care. I just give ‘um,” said Mahoe.

After waiting a week for the results to be broadcast on television, Kawailiula got top scores for kane and won first place overall. “To hear your name called is very exciting and more so because we really weren’t expecting the response that we got. We were just blown away,” said dancer Nathan Cruz.

The win felt so good especially after the journey to get there.

“We saw our performance and we were happy with it. We were proud of ourselves and what we accomplished,” said Cruz.

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