Merrie Monarch 2010: Group Hula Kahiko Competition
Kahiko performances awe, inspire
By Nina Wu
HILO, Hawaii » In an online Merrie Monarch poll, 41.1 percent of participants voted the Hula Kahiko competition on Friday night as their favorite night at the festival. The kahiko (ancient-style) segment of the 47th annual Merrie Monarch Festival did not disappoint.
It was an evening full of entrancing rhythms from the guttural beat of the pahu drums that guided movements, in addition to mesmerizing chants, story-telling and drama.
There were mele celebrating the mist and lehua of Kilauea, along with a tribute to the majestic Mount Ka‘ala (composed by Robert Cazimero and Wayne Chang for Kamehameha Schools’ song contest ho‘ike), the waterfall of Molokai, and famous sands of Nohili (Barking Sands) on Kauai. There were also mele honoring Queen Emma, the yellow-hued rose of Waialua honoring Queen Lili‘uokalani, and a love song celebrating the marriage of Ka‘ahumanu.
Some used implements, mostly a single ‘uli gourd, some did noho (sitting hula), and changed the pattern of formation while on stage, sometimes with the dancers so close together they formed a tight weave.
Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka (kumu Napua Makua and Kahulu Maluo-Huber) of Kula, Maui, was a memorable one, with their noho “‘O Pupuhi Ku Kalani” honoring Kamehameha V. They moved as one in deep red pa‘u skirts, using sticks to beat out a rhythm, bending backwards and rolling several times to touch the floor, reflecting the flicker of fire.
A TOTAL of 28 halau competed in the kahiko segment this year, eight of them kane groups, showing a resurgence of male hula dancers who are in fine shape.
Their movements were powerful, with plenty of pa‘i umauama (chest slapping), ku‘i (foot stomping), and amis up and down (which always drew cheers from the crowd) as they danced mele describing Kohala warriors uniting in battle and King Kamehameha’s prowess in battle. Kumu hula Sissy Kaio’s Kohala warriors performance was a special tribute to the late Uncle George Na‘ope, who taught the hula to her halau.
Last year’s kane kahiko, kane overall, and overall winner, Ke Kai O Kahiki (kumu hula O’Brian Eselu) finished up the night and did not disappoint, as his six dancers performed a dynamic rendition of “A Ka‘uku,” describing a land battle between Pele and Kamapua‘a.
Kumu hula Johnny Lum Ho is also returning to festival this year after a seven-year hiatus. His Halau O Ka Ua Kani Lehua performed a choreographically creative mele about a visit to Kalaupapa that struck a chord with the audience.
The halau made an entrance diagonal across the stage, down the ramp, reflecting the journey down the cliff. The lyrics described the individual accounts of people afflicted with leprosy – with plenty of o‘opa (crouching step), writhing and twisting.
The costumes reflected every element of nature, along with artistic creativity, with pa‘u skirts made from ti leaf (both split and whole) and natural hau, sometimes layered, and colors ranging from grey to deep red, purple, bright yellow and shades of green, some striped, and some decorated with patterns and stamps.