Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka of Kula, under the direction of kumu hula Napua Greig, narrowly missed the wahine overall title by six points Saturday night at the 51st Merrie Monarch Festival on the Big Island.
"We're overjoyed and very honored because it was a high level of competition like it is every year," Greig said Sunday via phone from the Big Island. "Each year, every halau is getting better and better and we sit in the stands just amazed.
"To place in the Merrie Monarch is such a great honor because we have great admiration for everyone in the competition."
Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka of Kula, under the direction of kumu hula Napua Greig, dances its kahiko (traditional) performance Friday night during the 51st Merrie Monarch Festival on the Big Island. The halau placed third in the dance and second overall in the wahine division.
Ha‘aheo Tiave photo
Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka of Kula, under the direction of kumu hula Napua Greig, dances its ‘auana (modern) performance. The halau placed second in the dance.
Ha‘aheo Tiave photo
Halau Kekuaokala‘au‘ala‘iliahi of Wailuku, under the direction of kumu hula Haunani and ‘Iliahi Paredes, dances its ‘auana (modern) performance Saturday night during the 51st Merrie Monarch Festival on the Big Island. The halau took fourth via a tiebreaker in the kane dance.
Rev. Kalani Wong photo
The halau finished with 1,172 points and behind winner Ka La 'Onohi Mai O Ha'eha'e, under the direction of kumu hula Tracie and Keawe Lopes of Oahu, which had 1,178. The Greig-led halau also took second in the wahine 'auana (modern) and third in the wahine kahiko (traditional).
Also placing at the festival was Halau Kekuaokala'au'ala'iliahi of Wailuku, under the direction of kumu hula Haunani and 'Iliahi Paredes.
The halau claimed fourth via a tiebreaker with Halau Na Mamo O Pu'uanahulu, under the direction of kumu hula William Kahakuleilehua Haunu'u "Sonny" Ching and Lopaka Igarta-De Vera of Oahu in the kane 'auana. Both halau had 585 points, as the Oahu halau scored 818 overall and the Paredes-led halau had 810.
"Both the boys and girls were at such a high level this year," 'Iliahi Paredes said Sunday. "Everybody was bringing their 'A' game and we were just blessed to be a part of it."
Greig's halau of 28 dancers, ages 14 to 39, danced to "I Waikapu Ke Aloha" for its 'auana performance, which talks about the rejoining of the four waters of the Iao, Waikapu and Waiehu streams and the Waihee River, or Na Wai Eha.
For its hula kahiko, the group danced to "E Ho'i Ka Nani I Mana," which tells of Queen Emma's visit to Lake Waiau on the Big Island in the early 1880s.
Greig said that it was difficult training for this year's competition because a third of the dancers do not live on Maui.
"Practicing formation with a third of the group gone is difficult," she said. "But those girls on Oahu provide such leadership for the group and figured it out."
Aside from the difficulties preparing for the competition, halau members caught a scare when they were stuck in their hotel's elevator Friday night before their kahiko performance.
"It was a little panic situation," Greig said. "Twenty-eight dancers stuck in an elevator is not fun, and the emergency phone in the elevator was broken.
"But they all pulled together and the girls were really, really happy when they got off the stage."
The Paredes' halau of 17 male dancers, ages 13 to 29, danced to "Kuahiwi Nani/Haleakala Hula Medley," an energetic 'auana in praise of Haleakala.
"We were so proud of the gentlemen performing and we always tell them to prepare the best that they can," 'Iliahi Paredes said. "When we get to the competition we tell boys to leave everything on that stage and have no regrets because that is really our victory right there. Awards are nice and we appreciate being recognized, but basically all we have control over is how we do on that stage, and they executed well."
Paredes said that Greig's halau performed after his group and he watched its opening with his wife, Haunani.
"They were so beautiful. We're so proud of Napua and all the work that she did with her girls this year," 'Iliahi Paredes said.
While Maui enjoyed a one-two finish in last years' Miss Aloha Hula soloist competition, with Manalani Mili Hokoana English of Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka claiming the title and Sloane Makana West of Halau Kekuaokala'au'ala'iliahi finishing second - no Valley Isle girl finished in the top five this year.
However, Greig was proud of the individual dancers and "extra joyous" for her halau, which performed well "despite the challenges we faced."
"We certainly reflect on ways we can be better and there's always room for improvement," she said. "But today we're just excited and can't wait to get home to Maui."
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.