Competition begins

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Miss Aloha Hula contestant Shyla Hehali‘aalohapulamakeolalani Victor, of Halau Kala‘akeakauikawekiu, performs hula kahiko Thursday at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo.

  • Shyla Hehali‘aalohapulamakeolalani Victor, of Halau Kala‘akeakauikawekiu, performs hula kahiko Thursday at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo. (KELSEY WALLING/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

The 59th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival hula competition kicked off Thursday evening at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo.

Ten wahine between the ages of 18 and 25 vied to become Miss Aloha Hula 2022, the most prestigious title a solo hula dancer can achieve. All 10 women danced a hula kahiko, or ancient hula, and a hula ‘auana, or modern hula, for a panel of judges, all hula experts.

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Only one Hawaii Island hula halau, Halau Kala‘akeakauikawekiu of Kailua-Kona, entered a Miss Aloha Hula candidate. She is 25-year-old Shyla Hehali‘a-alohapulamakeolalani Victor, daughter of kumu hula Kenneth Dean Alohapumehanaokala Victor, better known as Aloha Victor.

Shyla Victor’s hula kahiko was “Ka‘iulani,” written for Crown Princess Ka‘iulani shortly before she departed for England at age 13 in 1889 to complete her education for eventual rule. The mele was written by the Merrie Monarch himself, King David Kalakaua, to express the love the Hawaiian nation felt for the young princess.

The hula ‘auana danced by Shyla Victor was “Makani Kona.” The lyrics are a nostalgic expression of a boat ride King Kalakaua took in about 1888 from Kawaihae to Kailua-Kona while enjoying the sights of the Kona shoreline.

The words, composed by William Luther Moehonua, a Hawaiian noble who became governor of Maui Nui under Kalakaua, described the Kona winds during the boat ride, while the kaona (metaphoric subtext) suggested a possible affair of the heart for the monarch. The mele was set to music by Manu Boyd, a contemporary musician, composer and kumu hula.

Miss Aloha Hula 2021, Rosemary Ka‘imilei Keamoai-Strickland of Ka La ‘Onohi Mai O Ha‘eha‘em under the direction of na kumu hula Tracie and Keawe Lopes also shared her final dance as Miss Aloha Hula on the Merrie Monarch stage as the judges’ votes were tabulated.

The competition ran beyond deadline for today’s print edition, but are available online at westhawaiitoday.com.

Tonight, 18 halau will present 24 performances — 17 by wahine groups and seven by kane groups — of hula kahiko. The same groups will dance hula ‘auana Saturday night.

At the end of Saturday evening, the scores of the judges will be tabulated, winners announced and trophies awarded. That includes the Lokalia Montgomery Perpetual Trophy awarded to the overall winning halau.

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