More Than a Dance: What It Takes to be a Hula Champion

Hula is a dance of illusions. Behind the grace and the sway there is grit, athleticism, and a knee-breaking, blister-inducing effort to leave everything you have on the dance floor. Every year, the best compete at the Merrie Monarch Festival, the world’s most prestigious hula competition. Kayli Ka’iulani Carr, who is in her last year of eligibility for the contest, is trying to win the festival’s solo competition, Miss Aloha Hula. Does she have what it takes?


ALOHA FRIDAY - Merrie Monarch!

Happy Aloha Easter Friday! I hope that your week is going well. If it’s not, at least it’s almost over, and you can soon turn your thoughts to more tranquil things.

As some of you may know, the Merrie Monarch Festival is currently going on in Hilo Town on the Big Island of Hawai'i. It has been said that Merrie Monarch is the Olympics or Super Bowl of hula. Many hula halau (hula schools) have been preparing for months, investing much time, effort, and money to compete in this most prestigious of hula competitions.

This international festival is named after the Merrie Monarch, King David Kalākaua, who said that “Hula is the language of the heart, therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.” According to the website of the Merrie Monarch Festival,

King Kalākaua came to the throne of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1874 and reigned until his death in 1891. He was a patron of the arts, especially music and dance. Kalākaua restored Hawaiian cultural traditions that had been suppressed for many years under missionary teachings. He advocated a renewed sense of pride in such things as Hawaiian mythology, medicine, chant, and hula.

Yesterday was the Miss Aloha Hula competition. Congratulations to the new Miss Aloha Hula, Rebecca Lilinoekekapahauomaunakea Sterling from O'ahu, representing Halau Mohala ‘Ilima.

You can watch the Merrie Monarch Festival anywhere in the world online at KFVE starting at 6:00 p.m. Hawaiian time tonight and tomorrow.

Since the video of Rebecca’s dances aren’t posted yet, for your Aloha Friday viewing and listening pleasure, here is the hula auana, a more modern version of the dance, by Miss Aloha Hula 2009, Cherissa Henoheanāpuaikawaokele Kāne from Wailuku, Maui of Hālau Ke'alaokamaile.

She dances to one of my favorite mele from her kumu hula (and uncle), Keali'i Reichel. The mele is entitled Ka Nohona Pili Kai. It was written for Reichel’s tutu (grandmother) and speaks of her “seaside home” in Pa'ia Town, Maui. Enjoy!

Pä hanu mai ka pua ehu o ke kai
E holu nape ana i ka lau kï
Me he leo `a`ala i mäpu mai
E heahea mau nei

Aloha ë, aloha nö
Aloha ka häli`ali`a mau
He nani ë, he nani nö
He nani ka nohona pili kai

Lauele ka mana`o i ke aumoe
Hia`ä i ka `ulaleo o ke kai
Ka`iawe ka hä`upu aloha
E ho`omälie mau nei

He pilikana ka malu ulu niu
Hei mai ana me ka pöhuehue
A he wehi ho`i ko hi`ikua ë
E kähiko mau nei

Puana `ia no ke ehu o ke kai
Ia hanu `a`ala o ke aumoe
Moe a`e ke ala e `alo ai
E ho`olale mau nei

The spray of the sea comes as a breath
Rustling the leaves of the ti plants
Like a perfumed whisper scenting the air
Ever calling to me

Beloved, beloved indeed!
Beloved is the sweet remembrance
Beautiful, beautiful indeed!
Beauty embodies that seaside home

The mind wanders freely in the dark of night
Wakeful from the spirit-like voice of the sea
Precious images drift through my thoughts
Always bringing a sense of peace

The shade of the coconut grove is like family
Embracing me like the morning glory
Those who are gone become a thing of beauty
An everlasting adornment to hold dear

The spray of the sea recounts the story
That perfumed murmur of the deep of night
The pathway lies before us that we tread
Beckoning us ever forward

Merrie Monarch Festival Celebrates Art of Hula

The Merrie Monarch Festival, April 8-14, in Hilo, is a premier celebration of the art of hula and Hawaiian culture that honors the legacy of King David Kalakaua, who inspired the perpetuation of Hawaiian traditions, native language and the arts.

This week-long festival, supported by the HTA, will feature a three-day hula competition that has received global recognition for its historic and cultural significance—drawing halau’s from around the state and even a few from the mainland. Other festival events include art exhibits, craft fairs, demonstrations, performances and a grand parade through downtown Hilo.

Hawaii Tourism Authority

We're again at that awesome moment of the year...

The Merrie Monarch Festival!!!!

For those of you who don’t know what it is: “The Merrie Monarch Festival is committed to: 1) Perpetuating the traditional culture of the Hawaiian people; 2) Developing and augmenting a living knowledge of Hawaiian arts and crafts through workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions and performances of the highest quality and authenticity; 3) Reaching those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate; and, 4) Enriching the future lives of all of Hawaii’s children.”

Basically it’s a wonderful hula festival, and it’s main purpose "is the perpetuation, preservation, and promotion of the art of hula and the Hawaiian culture through education“. 

Last year was great, can’t wait to see what they’ve prepared for this edition. It will start on the 31st of March and last until the 6th of April.

More info:


Merrie Monarch Festival History from Kelli Urabe on Vimeo.

This was for University of Oregon’s 37th Annual Lu'au: Na Lani Eha, which honored the 4 monarchs Lili'uokalani, Likelike, Kalakaua, and Leleiohoku.
This is just a short video highlighting the Merrie Monarch Festival because of what King David Kalakaua did to inspire it.

I did all of the research myself and scripted it and recorded my voice.
A lot of the photos are pulled from online, and the videos from YouTube.

Thanks for watching!

Hope you can learn a little something.

Compiled in FCP


Torrance310: on my playlist and time for Hawaiian chant/ancient hula from Merrie Monarch 2012, Kahiko Academy of Hawaiian Arts from Oakland, CA


Hula Halau O Kamuela 2005. This is still my fav!

So excited for tomorrow! 

Merrie Monarch Festival Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Honolulu Star-Advertiser 1/1/13:

The venerable Merrie Monarch Festival will celebrate its 50th year in Hilo, March 31 to April 6.

The festival committee plans to bring back the barbershop quartet and King Kalakaua beard contests that took place in 1964, and the coronation pageant will once again be held at the Hilo Armory.

“I wanted to bring back what happened 50 years ago and to honor all those who made it happen,” said festival director Luana Kawelu. “I don’t want to forget our past. It’s a special tribute to all the kumu hula, past and present, who have dedicated their lives to hula.”

The 2013 Hoike will feature halau that participated from the start, including 1971 overall winner Hau­‘oli Hula Girls, as well as Robert Cazimero’s Na Kama­lei, the first kane winners, and the Men of Wai­ma­puna.

Kumu hula Aloha Dalire, the first Miss Aloha Hula (1971), will perform, calling up all the former winners to join her on stage.

The Edith Kanaka­‘ole Tennis Stadium, which has hosted the hula competition over the decades, is expected to undergo major renovations for the first time in many years. A new multipurpose building to serve as dressing rooms, upgraded restrooms and a larger lobby should be completed before the festival’s start.

The Merrie Monarch Festival’s origins date to 1963, when Helene Hale, Hawaii County chairwoman, was looking for a way to bring tourists to the island. The event debuted the next year.

Five years later the late Dottie Thompson (Kawelu’s mother) volunteered to take over as director of the foundering festival. She enlisted the late Uncle George Naope to invite the best hula dancers from around the isles to compete in honor of Kalakaua.

The hula competition itself was introduced in 1971, then a one-night event.

Today the weeklong festival with three nights of competition draws audiences from all over the globe while focusing on the same mission of keeping hula, the heartbeat of Hawaii, alive.

Watch on


One of my fav. halaus!