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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 5, 2008

Following instincts paid off for the new Miss Aloha Hula

Video: A chat with Miss Aloha Hula
Photo gallery: Merrie Monarch part 2
Photo gallery: Merrie Monarch part 1

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Assistant Features Editor

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Miss Aloha Hula, Kalimakuhilani Akemi Kalamanamana Suganuma, of Halau 'Olapa O Laka, had wanted to win since she was 6.

Photos by REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hula 'auana competition and awards today

On TV: 6 p.m., KITV

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kalimakuhilani Akemi Kalamanamana Suganuma, of Kane'ohe's Halau 'Olapa O Laka, performed "Kilauea" as her hula 'auana Thursday at the 45th Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo. LEFT: Suganuma is congratulated by her kumu hula Aloha Dalire after winning the Miss Aloha Hula title. Suganuma is a great-granddaughter of historian and linguist Mary Kawena Pukui.

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"Simply hula. Just dance hula."

That's what the Merrie Monarch Festival's new Miss Aloha Hula, Kalimakuhilani Akemi Kalamanamana Suganuma, 20, was taught by her kumu hula, Aloha Dalire of Kane'ohe's Halau 'Olapa O Laka.

That's what Suganuma tried to do as she performed works of her great-grandmother Mary Kawena Pukui Thursday night in the competition that she won. Just do the hula.

It worked. On a night when she would wash away her mascara in tears, pose for dozens of photographs and literally jump up and down with delight, this University of Hawai'i-Manoa Hawaiian Studies student became the reigning queen of hula, a dream she's held like a bride envisioning her wedding day, for years and years and years.

She held the dream since she was 6, she says. (And she will be a bride, by the way, to T.C. Southard, who is a dancer for Halau I Ka Wekiu and completely understands her hula commitment.)

The "simply dance" idea has worked for Dalire, who was the Merrie Monarch Festival's first Miss Aloha Hula (technically, Miss Hula 1971; they changed the title later), throughout her hula career.

The new Miss Aloha Hula, Suganuma, is someone whose genealogy would predict her presence on the stage. She is the great-granddaughter of historian, writer and linguist Mary Kawena Pukui. Her grandmother, Pele Pukui Suganuma, passed on the knowledge. Her father is a well-known practitioner of the Hawaiian martial art lua.

That Suganuma would be a hula student was never in question. But somehow, as young as grade-school age, she got this idea that she would not dance with the kumu who taught her four older sisters. Suganuma decided she would dance with Auntie Aloha, a family friend whose hula genealogy criss-crosses with theirs.

Suganuma can't say why; she just knows that she knew, as a young person, that Dalire was the teacher with whom she was supposed to be.

The premonitions didn't end there.

Dalire knew from very, very early on that, in addition to her own daughters, who have also been Miss Aloha Hula candidates, she was bringing up a competitor. There came a day when she called the Suganumas and said, basically, "I need to know whether you're going to leave her with me."

They said yes.

That was 12 years ago. Dalire watched this one. She gave her the best of her wisdom and saw how it was used.

And Thursday, Suganuma repaid that care and training with a dream come true for both of them.

Reach Wanda A. Adams at wadams@honoluluadvertiser.com.