Sunday, April 22, 2012

Merrie Monarch Festival - Thursday, April 12, 2012

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Miss Aloha Hula Competiton

I am hurrying to get the 3 or 4 blog pages I need to tell about our recent trip to Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii to attend the 49th Merrie Monarch Festival. This blog has been gaining viewers in Japan, who seem to enjoy looking at my photos of hula from the 2011 Merrie Monarch Festival last year. Thanks and "Arigato" to all for taking a look at my blog and photos.

The Merrie Monarch Festival is a week long series of events that include handicraft fairs, corporate parties and open houses, a parade and the biggest events of all - four days of hula competitions.  The event started back in 1963 as a means to help the city of Hilo recover economically from  the 1960 tsunami waves that struck the city. By 1971 the focus of the event had shifted to become a major hula competition.

Rebecca Lilinoekekapahauomaunakea Sterling - Selected as Miss Aloha Hawaii for 2012 - doing an 'Auana style  hula

The hula competitions start with a free event at the covered Edith Kanaka'ole tennis stadium in Hilo on Wednesday evening.  The stadium is named for "Auntie Edith" one of Hawaii's most honored teachers or "kumu" of hula. This is the chance for groups who do not qualify for entry at the main competitions on Friday and Saturday nights to show off their hula skills to the public.  

This first event includes groups of younger dancers, dance groups from out of the State of Hawaii and groups from Japan as performers.  Hula is extremely popular in Japan.  The crowds are standing room only for this free event. We did not try to attend this first night of dancing even though we did arrive in time to enter...perhaps.

Miss Aloha Hula Night

Our first night to attend was Thursday, April 12th - the night of the "Miss Aloha Hula" competition.  This competition is to determine the skills of one young woman who will become "Miss Aloha Hawaii."  

Our seats were next to the large, elevated stage or sacred "pa" - which should be entered only by invitation.  We had great views except when the TV camera dolly was pushed slowly past us or different photographers popped up and down to take photos for the paper (Dennis Oda from the Star Advertiser newspaper) and proud fathers taking photos of their daughters as they danced.  

The view from our seats at the Merrie Monarch Festival

There were several TV sound technicians moving back and forth to position their hand held directional microphones to capture the dancer's chants, the sounds of their feet, the beat of the gourd instruments and at one point the sound of a nose flute!

Playing a nose flute

Click here to see the Star Advertiser's coverage of the festival and Dennis Oda's photo galleries

Each of the 12 contestants are required to dance in two styles of costumes and dance.  First is the "Kahiko"- or "ancient" style of hula with the traditional type of costume, traditional hand and body motions and the dancer must also perform a chant in which the strength of her voice, the clarity and correct pronunciation of the Hawaiian words in the chant are strictly judged.


  • 'Auana - a style of hula that allows more experimentation in costume and movement. At the Merrie Monarch Festival, 'auana events follow kahiko events.
  • Kahiko - the traditional or ancient style of hula that remains closer to long held style of costume and movements.  Kahiko included chanting or singing in the Hawaiian language which is judged for correct pronunciation and clarity of the performer's voice.
  • Helau - a dance group or dance academy / school.
  • Kumu - teacher or leader of the helau.
  • Pa - the sacred dance floor. In ancient times this was created by creating an elevated area for the dancers in front of large open areas for the audience.
  • Pono - good
  • Wahine - woman or women / girl or girls
  • Kane - men or man / boy or boys
  • Ulili - instrument made from a dried gourd

Photos of the Kahiko dancers for "Miss Aloha Hula"

Gourd or "ulili" musicians

Winner of "Miss Aloha Hula" doing her kahiko hula dance

Winner of the "Miss Aloha Hula" during her Kahiko dance

Rebecca lilinoekekapahauomaunakea Sterling - Winner of Miss Aloha Hula


Photos of the 'Auana dancers for "Miss Aloha Hula"

'Auana hula allows for more experimentation in music, movement and costume.  'Auana "mele" or songs tend to tell stories about their composer's personal experience or celebrate a particularly beautiful moment or place.  For the wahine, the movements are extremely graceful and slower than in the kahiko hula.

The winner of "Miss Aloha Hula" during her 'Auana hula

I overheard a number of comments by people who did not like the use of a "sequined gown" by this young lady.

Next - Friday - Wahine and Kane Kahiko competition by 30 helau

My apologies for the uneven appearance of the text on this page.  For some reason, the Blogger software is having problems displaying text portion of the page correctly.

Please click the colored link to view my other blog about my more distant journeys - Travler Al's Wanderings

I take the photos using available light on a Canon G11 digital camera on a monopod for steadiness.  I am a "shakey Jake!"

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