Merrie Monarch Festival hula competition begins this week. Watch it live online.


Hawaii’s hula halau (dancing groups) and competitive dancers from elsewhere are now making their way to Hilo to take part in the 48th annual Merrie Monarch Festival’s three-night competition, which will begin Thurs., April 28 with the Miss Aloha Hula Competition.

But before the world’s premier hula contest gets under way, the weeklong Merrie Monarch Festival will kick off on Sun. April 24 with a non-competitive yet lively hoolaulea (celebration) of hula and Polynesian dance, featuring dancers who may be vying for top honors later in the week.

Halau performances will start at 9 a.m. on Sunday at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo. The last dancers in the lineup will take the stage at 3 p.m. Seating is open, and there will be no charge for admission.

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Tickets are needed to attend the competitive performances. And they’ll likely be hard to come by in the days before the contest. Last year, the overall event sold out before the dancing started. But hula fans need not despair. You’ll be able to catch every graceful gesture and synchronized shake online or on high-definition television here in the Islands.

Hawaii TV network KFVE will live stream the entire contest from Hilo’s Edith Kanakaole Stadium. For a complete live-streaming schedule, click here. If you’re here in the Islands, tune into KFVE’s high-definition broadcast on all three nights on Channel 5.

Each night’s competition will start at 6 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (HST). That’s midnight on the East Coast, 9 p.m. on the West Coast. 

The Miss Aloha Hula Competition — slated for Thurs., April 28 — will spotlight soloists performing both hula kahiko (ancient hula) and hula auana (modern hula). Hula halau will perform kahiko on Fri., April 29 and auana on Sat., April 30.

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The festival is dedicated to the memory of King David Kalakaua, who was called the “Merrie Monarch” for his love of the arts, especially music and dance. During his reign, from 1874 to his death in 1891, he supported the revival of hula, which had been discouraged by missionaries. Early Hawaiians used chant and hula as vehicles to express matters such as mythology, history and religion.

The Merrie Monarch Festival’s events schedule also includes: daily hula demonstrations, a Polynesian dance exhibition; daily events at Imiloa Astronomy Center; a Hawaii arts-and-crafts fair at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium through Sat., April 30; and the celebratory Merrie Monarch Royal Parade through downtown Hilo, which will start at 10:30 a.m. on Sat., April 30.

All festival events, except for the competitive hula contest, are free and open to the public. For more festival information, click here.

UPDATE, 5/2/2011: And the winners are:

Miss Aloha Hula 2011: Tori Hulali Canha of Halau Kealaokamaile (Wailuku, Maui)

Wahine hula auana (women’s modern hula): Hula Halau o Kamuela — Kumu Hula Kauionalani Kamana o and Kunewa Mook (Kalihi and Waimanalo, Oahu)

Kane hula auana (men’s modern hula): Ka Leo o Laka i ka Hikina o ka La — Kaleo Trinidad (Honolulu, Oahu)

Wahine hula kahiko (women’s traditional hula): Halau Kealokamaile — Kumu Hula Kealii Reichel (Wailuku, Maui)

Kane hula kahiko (men’s traditional hula): Ke Kai o Kahiki — Kumu Hula O’Brian Eselu (Waianae, Oahu)

Wahine overall winner: Halau Kealokamaile — Kumu Hula Kealii Reichel (Wailuku, Maui)

Kane overall winner: Ke Kai o Kahiki — Kumu Hula O’Brian Eselu (Waianae, Oahu)

Merrie Monarch Festival 2011 overall winner: Halau Kealaokamaile  — Kumu Hula Kealii Reichel (Wailuku, Maui)

Categories: Culture, Hawai‘i Island