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Halau sweeps wahine class at Merrie Monarch

LIHU‘E — The “light of Lono,” one of the translations of “Kukuiolono,” and a hero’s welcome greeted kumu hula Leina‘ala Pavao Jardin and the ladies and support staff of Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala Sunday at the Lihu‘e Airport.

Crowds of people bearing lei, signs and gifts clogged the aisle leading to the Hawaiian Airlines baggage claim area, one of the presenters of the 2022 Merrie Monarch Festival, waiting to greet the kumu and her halau that won all four categories of the female hula competition except the Miss Aloha Hula in a competitive presentation at the annual hula festival that opened in-person for the first time since being shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The halau did not have any kane competitors nor an entrant in the solo Miss Aloha Hula divisions, and swept all the other divisions: hula kahiko, hula ‘auana, wahine overall and overall combined.

The Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald reported the results from the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo as the Kalaheo-based halau taking the overall combined on 1,218 points, compared with 1,211 points with a tie-breaker 1,693 points fielded by Ka La ‘Onohi Mai O Ha‘eha‘e, the second-place halau that tied with Hula Halau ‘O Kamuela on 1,211 points with 1,691 points tie-breaker.

“You make us proud,” Mayor Derek Kawakami told Pavao Jardin between the sea of well-wishers that included Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau Executive Director Sue Kanoho and her husband Solomon Kanoho, recently retired from the Kaua‘i Fire Department.

En route to earning the overall wahine judging, Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala overcame the barriers of winning the kahiko (ancient hula) and ‘auana (modern or contemporary hula) presentations at the event people describe as “the Olympics of Hula,” and “The Best of the Best,” due to the event’s well-known status and the abilty to attract halau from all parts of the world.

Just three points separated the top spot in kahiko, as Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala accumulated 607 points to the second-place-finishing Halau Kekuaokala‘au‘ala‘iliahi that earned 604 points.

Competition in hula ‘auana was even tighter, as just one point separated first from second place, Pavao Jardin’s wahine taking the competition garbed in regal purple of the island with 611 points, just a point better than second-place-finisher Ka La ‘Onohi Mai O Ha‘eha‘e, which who ended the judging with 610 points.

Pavao Jardin said the halau is celebrating its 10th year of participating in the invitation-only Merrie Monarch Festival, and her trip was dedicated to the island of Kaua‘i that provided years of support during the journey to the Merrie Monarch. She was pleased to hear several halau participating at the Merrie Monarch Festival also drew on Kaua‘i as motivation and inspiration for their respective presentations.

“We are all family,” she said.

The kahiko and ‘auana presentations led to the Wahine Overall judging, where Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala captured the top spot by just seven points over Ka La ‘Onohi Mai O Ha‘eha‘e, the Kalaheo-based halau earning 1,218 points to the halau led by kumu hula Tracie and Keawe Lopes that ended with 1,211 points.

Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala Merrie Monarch presenters include Brylyn Aiwohi, Breeze Pavao, Jaedyn Pavao, Jayna Parongao, Cherish Pascua, Chanelle Estenzo-Contrades, Kailana Kanahele, Xarika Casticimo, Lilia Merrin, Jelacia Peralta, Meiya Ramos, La‘akea Chun, Ilikea Valmoja and Shalia Vierra.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or
Source: The Garden Island

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