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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 19, 2004

Merrie Monarch photo gallery

Photos by Deborah Booker
Advertiser Staff Photographer

The men of O'Brian Eselu's Ke Kai O Kahiki, here performing "Ha'ule Mai Pele Mai Kahiki Mai," helped their kumu honor his late friend and former co-kumu Thaddius Wilson, who died Feb. 3, by winning the kane kahiko (men's old-style) division. Wilson was one of two longtime Merrie Monarch participants — the other was cultural authority and floral designer Lindsey Pollock — to whom the 41st annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival was dedicated.

Kumu hula Kau'i Kamana'o of five-time-winner Hula Halau O Kamuela buries his face in his hands as he and co-kumu Kunewa Mook make their way to the stage to accept the first-place award in the wahine 'auana (modern women's) division. However, the halau would fall four points short of the overall title, losing to Na Lei O Kaholoku.

Left: Halau I Ka Wekiu's 'auana (modern) entry, which had the troupe dressed in board shorts and bright red surf gear for a lively song about he'e nalu, not only had the crowd shouting, but pleased the judges enough to net the halau top place in the modern hula division.

Below: The traditional "kumu dance" — when hula teachers are called on stage to dance in an informal, family party style while votes are being counted — this year featured three generations of the Howard and Olana Ai family of Halau Hula Olana: Olana Ai is just visible in the floral print behind; two of her daughters and one of her grandchildren maintain unison at the front.

On Wednesday night before the annual free Ho'ike (hula show), 93-year-old Daisy Smith of Puna, Hawai'i, couldn't stay in her seat; she was up clapping and singing along with the old-time classics. The Ho'ike is held the day before most visitors and competing halau get into town. Kumu hula Sonny Ching, left, of Halau Na Mamo O Pu'uanahulu had a birthday month to remember: his Miss Aloha Hula candidate, Natasha Mahealani Akau, won the 2004 title, his men won the overall kane award on Saturday night, and the women placed third in women's overall.

Merrie Monarch hula contestants routinely braid their hair tightly to create the waterfall waves so desirable for hula kahiko (old-style). Here, Miss Aloha Hula contestant Trina Lee Kawailehua Perkins gets some help unbraiding her hair from kumu hula Napua Greig and Kahulu Maluo-Huber of Maui's Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka.