Tens of thousands gathered around the Edith Kanakaole Stadium in Hilo this week to commemorate the 55th Merrie Monarch Festival which ran from April 1st – 7th. The festival brings together the best hula dancers from all the islands who strive to perpetuate the history and unique culture of Native Hawaiians. It is through this festival that a sense of cultural pride is manifested and felt throughout the streets of Hilo – celebrating Hawaiian language, arts, music and crafts.
The highlight of the festival is a three-day hula competition that features hula hālaus from across the state to perform both ancient style dances known as hula kahiko and modern style dances know as hula ‘auana. Among the criteria that judges used to score the hālaus were the adornments, expression, interpretation, posture, precision, hand gestures, foot and body movements, authenticity of costume and overall performance. Maui’s Hālau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka under the direction of Kumu Nāpua Greig had the highest combined score of 1,200, taking home the overall title in the 2018 in the 2018 Merrie Monarch Hula Competition.
This year, twelve graceful wahine hula dancers took the stage to compete for the prominent title of Miss Aloha Hula – each contest performed hula kahiko, hula ‘auana and oli. Maui girl, Shalia Kapuau‘ionalani Kikuyo Kamakaokalani from Hālau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka, captured the hearts of the judges and swept the stage with a score of 1,130 points.
Hilo Hattie’s beginnings were also fostered at the Merrie Monarch Festival. At the 1971 festival, infamous Hawaiian entertainer, Clarissa Haili aka Hilo Hattie, allowed for her name to be used on a new clothing line that became known known as the Hilo Hattie retail chain.
The Merrie Monarch Festival cultivates the pride and determination of Native Hawaiians, drawing together a network of talented dancers, kumu hula, researchers and professors of Hawaiian studies committed to perpetuating Hawaiian history and culture.
Photo Provided By: www.merriemonarch.com