Halau Kekuaokala‘aualailiahi brings home hula titles

Halau Kekuaokala’aualailiahi of Wailuku captured Miss Keiki Hula, Master Keiki Hula and the Overall Keiki Kane Division titles at the 39th annual Queen Lili’uokalani Keiki Hula Competition, held Thursday to Saturday on Oahu.

Also at the competition, televised on KITV from the Blaisdell Center Arena, the halau’s kaikamahine (girls) finished in second place in kahiko (old) and auana (modern) divisions.

Miss Keiki Hula was Le’a Hosino of Wailuku and Master Keiki Hula, Kamaka Ho’opi’i of Kahakuloa.

Le’a, 10, a 5th-grader at Ke Kula Kaiapuni o Maui at Paia Elementary School, has been dancing hula for seven years. Her solo number “I Aloha ‘ia no ‘o Kanaio” was written by the late Maui Kumu Hula Nina Maxwell.

She composed the piece for Le’a’s great grandfather, Raymond “Sonny” Kuaana, a Kanaio native and elder, who gave Maxwell and her husband, Charlie, their first comprehensive tour of his homeland in lower Kanaio, the halau said in a fact sheet.

“Kanaio is located on the southeast end of Maui and is famous for its rugged, yet breathtaking, terrain,” said the fact sheet. “The mele forever ties Keaolani (Le’a) to the land of her kiipuna, as Sonny Kuaana is Keaolani’s great grandfather on her father’s side.”

The winning dancer also had a connection with the composer. Her mother Malia Olsten Hosino, her aunty Luana Olsten Kawa’a and her current kumu hula, Haunani Paredes, were all Maxwell’s haumana, or students, in her keiki hula line.

Kamaka, 10, a 4th-grader at Kamehameha Schools Maui, danced to a number woven together with three mele, “Ku ‘u Hawai’i,” composer unknown; “Pololei ‘Oia To,” by John K Almeida; and “Na Wai Kaulana” by Alice Namakelua, that reflected his “deep-seated aloha for his land and his ‘ohana,” the fact sheet said.

Born and raised in isolated Kahakuloa, without television or Internet at home, he catches shrimp and oopu in the stream near his home, gathers akala berries from the nearby forest for his mom’s desserts and helps his dad raise pigs.

In the Keiki Kane Division, the halau took the overall title and took first place in both the kahiko and auana divisions.

The 14 members danced to “Ke Akamai o La’amea” for kahiko. The mele established King Kalakaua’s familial connection to the alii of Maui.

For auana, the group danced to “Kaulana Uapo o Hilo,” written in 1986 by Akoni Makekau Malacas and his mother, Ida Kahele Malacas. The number celebrates a bridge on a train line that used to run along the Hamakua Coast to Hilo town. Although the train has long since gone, the bridge remains.

“According to Akoni, the mele takes the audience on a metaphoric journey,” the fact sheet says. “In order to understand our present and future, we, as Hawaiians, must build a bridge to the past. Our culture cannot survive without our people knowing and understanding our history.”

In other honors, the halau captured the Mary Kawena Pukui Hawaiian Language Award, and Maikalani Wong, a 6th-grader at Kamehameha Schools Maui, won one of five Kawena ‘Ulu Scholarship Awards. He can use the $250 award for school or hula.

The Kalihi-Palama Culture & Arts Society organized a festival to honor Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani, on Sept. 11, 1976, the competition website said. The hula competition for youths 6 to 12 years old was organized in auana only as part of the festival; six groups entered the first Queen Lili’uokalani Keiki Hula Competition.

The competition would change venues. Soloists, kahiko, a separate division for keiki kane and Hawaiian language critique were added through the years.