HILO, Hawaii – The official start of the Merrie Monarch Festival was on Sunday, but its Ho’ike night at the Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium where things start to really heat up. A huge crowd – many of whom waited in line all day Wedensday to get a seat at the free event – participated in the traditional opening protocols.
The Ho’ike was the first chance for hula fans to see the Royal Court. This year’s young King and Queen: 36 year old Darcy Malani Alameda, and Keheaokalani Mary Ellen Kinimaka Stocksdale, age 38. Ka’ea Alapa’i served as master of ceremonies for the evening. The National Anthem and Hawaii Ponoi were sung this year by Kamehameha Schools Hawaii Campus Concert Glee. The opening pule was done by Kahu Wendell Davis.
Once again, local favorite Hālau O Kekuhi took the stage as the first performance of the night. Under the direction of Nalani Kanaka’ole, daughter of stadium namesake Edith Kanaka’ole, the hālau honored the Merrie Monarch himself, King David Kalakaua and Queen Kapiʻolani. It was a relatively short night for Hālau O Kekuhi, likely because there were four more groups on the schedule, but the performance thrilled the crowd nonetheless.
Next up was the first of two hālau from Japan. Travelling from Shibuya, Hālau Na Mamo O Kaleinani under the direction of kumu hula Seiko Okamoto won the 2013 Ikaho Hawaiian Festival hula competition in their home country, which leads to a Hoike invitation in Hilo. Hālau Na Mamo O Kaleinani also performed during the 2010 Ho’ike.
After that, the Ho’ike opened its doors to other Polynesian cultures. Te Waka Huia stalked the stage. The champion Maori dance troupe from Aotearoa had the crowd enthralled from the very beginning. Under the direction of Tapeta and Annete Wehi, the intense, trembling Te Waka Huia has won five Matatini National Championships in kapa haka. They even won the prestigious honor the first time they competed.
Te Waka Huia stole the show. The finale was a thundering haka. The audience reacted with a standing ovation. The group also paid homage to Merrie Monarch Festival director Luana Kawelu, on stage.
Hālau Hula O Mehanaokala under kumu Kuulei Hashimoto was up next. The second group from Japan, this hālau specialized not only in hula, but also Tahitian dance, and Samoan as well.
The Ho’ike ended with Ilima Hula Studio and Family — under Lani-Girl Kaleiki-AhLo. The group appeared in last year’s event, as well.
On Thursday, the competition begins with Miss Aloha Hula… followed by group kahiko on Friday and the final auana on Saturday.
CREDIT: Video by David Corrigan, Voice of Stephanie Salazar