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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 27, 2003

Three days of competition, a lifetime of memories

 •  Merrie Monarch Festival results
 •  Notebook: A final aloha from Hilo
 •  Merrie Monarch photo gallery

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hula Halau 'O Kamuela, the Kalihi/Waimanalo halau of Kau'i Kamana'o and Kunewa Mook, danced their way to the overall championship of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival last night in Hilo. The wahine, above, stepped through their final-night presentation in the 'auana, or modern, hula competition.

Hula Halau 'O Kamuela's Haruyo Carrell, right, and Nanea Abive celebrate their Wahine 'Auana first place.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

HILO, Hawai'i — As hundreds of hula dancers and fans board planes to leave this welcoming green place, they will take with them indelible visions of the 40th annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival:

• The men of Halau i Ka Wekiu all but naked in malos the color of sunset, reaching high to throw out their nets in "Ka Lawai'a" ("The Fisherman") and gathering in return the crowd's shrieking approval.

• The women of Halau Hula 'O Kamuela in tight formation, moving across the stage as though they were one, many-footed creature.

• Nathan Cruz of Chinky Mahoe's Halau Hula 'O Kawaili'ula swaggering onto the stage with a boastful chant echoed in a mocking tone by his hula brothers, then leaping into an outrageous, testesterone-driven performance in which the pig god Kamapu'a once again attempts to best the goddess Pele.

• The boys of Sissy Ka'io's Carson, Calif., halau performing a brief but wildly popular series of sexy moves — hopping forward stiff-legged, hands at sides, leading with the pelvis — to the venerable backyard party song "Teve Teve," in honor of Merrie Monarch co-founder "Uncle" George Naope.

• Chinky Mahoe's wahine performing "Hoi Mai I Kumuwaena," a song about selfless love, in a sweet and gentle style, simply choreographed and pure.

The women of Halau Hula O Hokilani from Mililani performed in the hula Kahiko competition Friday night.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

They will take their craft fair treasures, their purple-and-pikake 2003 Merrie Monarch T-shirts, their Hawaiian chic accessories and head back to Japan, the Mainland and the other islands.

They will be thinking of the little things that made this year different: Aloha Dalire's halau kane having to drop out because a couple of members appeared as though they might be deployed; the daring new rainbow of colors in costuming from mustard to fuschia; the increasing ease and responsiveness in chanting that comes with a greater familiarity with the language on the part of dancers. They'll remember the appearance of lesser used steps — little, mincing tiptoe holos for women and big, kicking jumping for men. And they will see again in their minds' eyes the technique of Johnny Lum Ho's Halau Ka Ua Kani Lehua each line of dancers rising from a crouch to interpret a different verse in quick succession.

And many will be looking forward to next year, having made their hotel reservations even as they checked out, another Merrie Monarch tradition.