Merrie Monarch 101: Get the scoop on what those discerning judges are looking for

Group competition in the Merrie Monarch Festival begins Friday night with hula kahiko.
Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 2:54 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 14, 2023 at 5:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Group competition in the Merrie Monarch Festival begins Friday night with hula kahiko.

The ancient style of dance is a fan favorite ― and a chance to showcase rich cultural knowledge.

Kumu hula Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, 70, has served as a festival judge countless times.

He said judging the festival is a huge responsibility that requires a critical eye for precision, costume, lei and much more.

How to watch the 60th annual Merrie Monarch Festival

He said the audience see “fabulous hula entertainment perspective.”

“But the judges,” he said, “are seeing it from different eyes.”

MISS ALOHA HULA PERFORMANCES:

Twenty-three halau are participating in the Merrie Monarch Festival this year.

For a full list of halau participants and judges, click here.

Hewett is known as one of the masters of hula and still studies its roots and styles.

Special Section: Merrie Monarch Festival

“People like myself, we were trained in these different aspects of the hula,” said Hewett, who first got involved with Merrie Monarch in the early 1970s as a chanter. He described fire torches used during the kahiko (ancient dance) and colorful costumes during ‘auana (modern dance).

While style preferences may have changed over the decades, he says much of the festival remains the same and true to its roots of perpetuating Hawaiian culture.