Two Maui halau return to hula’s biggest stage, Merrie Monarch, which begins Thursday

Festival starts tonight with soloist competition

Ka'imilani Marie Corpuz

Two Maui women will grace hula’s largest stage tonight during the Miss Aloha Hula soloist competition at the 56th annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, where last year another Maui woman took top honors.

Ka’imilani Marie Corpuz, 21, of Pukalani and Kalena Kawohikukapulani Young Ho’opi’i, 23, of Kahakuloa, are two of 13 female dancers who are seeking the title won last year by Shalia Kapuau’ionalani Kikuyo Kamakaokalani of Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka of Waiohuli.

Corpuz is of Halau Kekuaokala’au’ala’iliahi and Ho’opi’i is of Halau O Ka Hanu Lehua. Both halau are based in Wailuku. Ho’opi’i is also the granddaughter of the late famous falsetto singer Richard Ho’opi’i Sr.

The soloist contest tonight kicks off the competition portion of the festival. On Friday, the halau will dance the kahiko, or ancient style of hula, and on Saturday the ‘auana, or modern style. Two Maui halau will compete — Halau Kekuaokala’au’ala’iliahi and Halau O Ka Hanu Lehua. In total there are 23 halau from across the state and the Mainland participating.

The Miss Aloha Hula competition begins at 6 p.m. today. The hula kahiko is at 6 p.m. Friday with hula ‘auana at 6 p.m. Saturday, with awards to follow.

Kahakuloa resident Kalena Kawohikukapulani Young Ho‘poi‘i will represent Halau O Ka Hanu Lehua and her home island on the Miss Aloha Hula stage tonight.

The competition will be shown live on KFVE, on Spectrum Channel 1022/22 and Hawaiian Telcom Channel 1013/13.

‘Iliahi and Haunani Paredes, the husband and wife duo of Halau Kekuaokala’au’ala’iliahi, are taking 32 wahine and 22 kane to this year’s competition.

This is the eighth year of competition in the festival for the halau’s kane and the fifth year for the wahine.

“We are very excited for this year’s competition. Each year, the Merrie Monarch Festival brings a new challenge and adventure for us, and we humbly accept those blessings wholeheartedly,” the couple said in an email. “Hula is our life, and our participation at the Merrie Monarch hula competition enhances our entire being — physically, mentally and spiritually.”

For the kahiko, the wahine will dance to “He Inoa Keia No Kapiolani,” which is a song named for Queen Kapiolani. The wahine will wear clothing that is of monarchial style and reminiscent of those worn during King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani’s time. Their attire will feature a blouse with a high-collared neckline and billowy sleeves.

For the hula ‘auana, the wahine will dance to “Huelo,” of the village on the northeast side of Maui. It is a “fun and sassy hula,” about a boy from Huelo and a girl from Keanae who flirtatiously debate over the beauty of their homelands. Wahine attire will include mandarin-collared sleeveless fitted blouses with an intricate uluhe and hapu’u fern designed by Hawaiian designer Nake’u Awai.

In the kahiko competition for the kane, they will dance to “Ku ‘Oe Ko’u Wahi ‘Ohelo Nei,” which is from the classical hula pahu traditions of hula masters Eleanor Leilehua Hiram Hoke and Keaka Kanahele. They will wear layered hula skirts made of cotton fabric that has been dyed and massaged to replicate kapa.

For the kane ‘auana, they will dance to “He Aloha No ‘O Honolulu,” which is a classic hula song from the 1920s composed by Lot Kauwe. It tells of the voyage of an interisland ship.

Kane will wear long sleeve button-down collared shirts of aqua blue shantung silk fabric and white gabardine trousers.

Halau O Ka Hanu Lehua, led by kumu Kamaka Kukona, could not be reached for comment.

The Valley Isle won big at last year’s festival, with Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka bringing home not only the Miss Aloha Hula title but also the overall trophy. Kumu Napua Greig said it would be the halau’s last Merrie Monarch for awhile, as she wanted to focus on other things, like taking the halau to New Zealand.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.