New Miss Aloha Hula gracious Merrie Monarch Group Hālau
By Wanda A. Adams
Assistant Features Editor
Māhealani Mika Hirao-Solem of O'ahu is about to prepare for a year-long whirlwind.
Tonight, however, as the Merrie Monarch draws to a close, she will perform as just one of the haumana, or students, in her hālau.
Hirao-Solem, who dances with Hālau Hula 'O Kamuela, was named Miss Aloha Hula 2010 Thursday night, to the tearful pride of kumu hula Kau'ionalani Kamana'o and Kunewa Mook. Her kahiko performance about Queen Emma's famed travels to Kaua'i and modern hula about a beloved Diamond Head earned 1,082 points in the judging.
Hirao-Solem is 24, lives in Kaimukī and has been dancing with Hālau Hula O Kamuela for four years.
Immediately after the awards, she was mobbed first by her hula sisters and brothers, then by photographers, then by representatives of Merrie Monarch TV partner KFVE, then by print press, then by more friends and family.
She graciously did as most Miss Aloha Hula do and crossed the stage to thank the judges. Her friend, recording artist Kaumakaiwa "Lopaka" Kanaka'ole, enveloped her in an immense hug, as did the outgoing Miss Aloha Hula, Cherissa Kāne of Hālau Ke'alaokamaile. There was family picture-taking, and then it was back to the Naniloa Volcanoes Resort in the wee hours of the morning.
Hirao-Solem will spend the year fielding invitations to perform in many different venues and living a very public life, expected to look and act like a Miss Aloha Hula wherever she goes.
Asked what it meant to him to see a student of his win Miss Aloha Hula, Mook choked up a bit: "It means," he said and then paused." It means the world to me, actually. Mika is a very, very sweet girl and she works very, very hard. "
In second place was Taysha-Lei K. De Sa of Halau O Ka Ua Kani Lehua, with 1074 points.
Third place went to Mahina Macfarlane of Ka Lā 'Onohi Mai O Ha'ehae, with 1073 points.
The fourth position, and the Hawaiian language award, went to Oralani Koa, who dances for Keali'i Reichel's Hālau Ke'alaokamaile; she had 1069 points.
A sentimental favorite, Ashlyn Aulani Tavares, who dances for the late Rae Fonseca's Hālau Hula 'O Kahikilaulani here in Hilo, received fifth place honors with 1060 points.
A beloved Merrie Monarch tradition is the aloha dance of the outgoing Miss Aloha Hula at the finale of the show. Cherissa Kāne gave the audience a special treat on Thursday night; her kumu hula is award-winning recording artist Keali'i Reichel, and she danced to a medley of two of his biggest hits, "Kawaipunahele" and "'E O Mai." The audience cried out with delight.
For Hirao-Solem, too, there will be this tearful, bittersweet moment next year.