Maui Men Earn Sweep at Hula Festival

The seven men of Wailuku-based Halau Kekuaokala’au’ala’iliahi won top honors in all three categories of dance at the 59th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival, held the third week of April at Hilo’s Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium.

The hālau, led by husband and wife kumu hula ‘Iliahi and Haunani Paredes, swept all three of the men’s prizes—the kāne kahiko (ancient hula) and kāne ‘auana (modern hula), as well as the mens’ best overall. The hālau also scored second place in the wahine kahiko category. 

The kane of Hālau Kekuaokala’au’ala’iliahi from Wailuku, led by husband and wife kumu hula ʻIliahi and Haunani Paredes, won top honors at the 59th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo. Courtesy Merrie Monarch Festival.

For their kahiko performance, the men chose to honor Prince Jonah Kuhio with the name chant, “Ku’u Ipo Kēhau.” Their ‘auana dance was an original composition by Kumu Iliahi Paredes called “ʻEleʻio”.

“It was a shock,” said Kumu Haunani Paredes of all the awards. “This year’s group really brought a lot of pride to Maui, to their kumu, and to their hula brothers and sisters. We are just so very proud of them.” 

During the wahine segment, the performers played bamboo pūʻili instruments as they danced the name chant, “Pōhina Ka Ua,” to honor Princess Victoria Ka’iulani Cleghorn, the niece of the festival’s namesake, King David Kalakaua. They wore palapalai ferns, kūpee shells, crown flower lei, and vibrant purple haku lei crowns, all collected and made by the dancers themselves. Soloist Kyleigh Hokuao Manuel-Sagon placed fifth overall in the Miss Aloha individual dance competition. 

A second group from Wailuku, Halau O Ka Hanu Lehu, led by kumu hula Kamaka Kukona, was also among the 18 to compete on the Big Island. There were no competitors from Molokai or Lānaʻi in this year’s festival.

Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala from Kalaheo, Kauaʻi, swept the women’s competition under the direction of kumu hula Leina‘ala Pavao Jardin. It is the hālau’s tenth anniversary and they also earned the Lokalia Montgomery Perpetual Trophy given to the overall winner, becoming the first hālau from Kauaʻi to do so.

Dan Collins