Kayli Kaʻiulani Carr is your 2016 Miss Aloha Hula.
The 25-year-old dominated at the first night of the 53rd Merrie Monarch Festival where 12 female soloists representing their hālau (hula schools) competed for this year’s title.
Individuals perform in both hula kahiko (traditional) and hula ʻauana (modern) where Carr finished with a total score of 1,134 points — just 11 more points than the runner-up from Kauaʻi, Brylyn Noelani Aiwohi of Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana of Leinaʻala.
Carr is from Oʻahu’s Mākaha and dances with the Kalihi-based Hālau Hiʻiakainamakalehua led by kumu hula (hula teachers) Robert Ke‘ano Ka‘upu IV and Lono Padilla. Carr’s win was the first Miss Aloha Hula win for the relatively new hālau which isn’t even 10 years old yet.
Her ʻauana, “Ka Makani Kaʻili Aloha,” is an early-1900s mele (song) written by Matthew H. Kane that depicts the feelings of unrequited love. But it was her kahiko, “Eō Keōpūolani Kauhiakama,” exalting the royal line of Liholiho that had everyone glued to their screens. (Also can we take a moment for those lei hulu, feathered lei, because they were gorgeous.)
Social media lit up over her oli (chant), "Mele Inoa No Kīhāpiʻilani," which demanded incredibly fast chanting, without sacrificing the crucial Hawaiian pronunciation to convey its meaning. Her movements were strong, precise and commanding. Lost in the intensity, at moments she looked possessed by an ancestral spirit. It was amazing.
Watch Carr’s award-winning kahiko performance here: