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Friday, April 25, 2003



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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jennifer Kehaulani Oyama performed last night during the auana portion of the Miss Aloha Hula 2003 competition.



Honolulu dancer is
Miss Aloha Hula 2003

Jennifer Kehaulani Oyama
shines at the 40th annual
Merrie Monarch Festival

Merrie Monarch winners


HILO >> Jennifer Kehaulani Oyama of Halau Na Mamo O Pu'uanahulu in Honolulu was named Miss Aloha Hula 2003 at the 40th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo.

It was the first trip back to the annual festival by the halau under the direction of Kumu Hula Sonny Ching in two years.

The announcement of the winner was made about 12:30 this morning. (See page A7 for a list of last night's winners.)

Earlier last night, theatrical, charismatic and most comfortable when pushing the limits of hula kahiko, Kumu Hula Johnny Lum Ho had his astonishing, powerful and confident Chrissy Noelani Kama walk a tightrope of tradition in the first day of competition of the annual festival.

Before some 4,200 people, Kama strutted onto the Edith Kanaka'ole Tennis Stadium stage while the story behind the chant and dance was broadcast in English; then Lum, in scarlet red cape and white shirt, pounded the ipu giving the signal to Kama begin.

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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jennifer Kehaulani Oyama is flanked by kumu hula Sonny Ching, left, and alaka'i Lopaka Igarta-De Vera after she was declared the winner.




Unlike the seven competitors before her, Kama, 23, in a simple two-layered white dress and fern haku, anklets and wristlets began her own chanting in Hawaiian, more a demand to be heard than a plea.

Her chant was about Kapepeekaulia, who lived on Haupu Hill and had a strong desire for Hina, wife of Hakalanile. Once upon a time, Haupu floated to Mokuola in Hilo. While Hina was on the hill of Haupu, it floated back to Molokai. There she lived in the company of Kapepeekaulia. The story tells of the difficult task her two sons had to endure to successfully rescue her.

Unlike earlier performances, Kama spent little time standing still or sitting, and the audience loved it, providing Ho and company the loudest applause of the evening.

This Super Bowl of hula competitions began with the fairest, finest and most feminine of the dance form, the Miss Aloha Hula event.

Ka'enaalohaokau'ikaukehakeha Aoe Hopkins, of Honolulu's Halau I Ka Wekiu, opened the competition wearing a tie-dyed skirt of red, orange and yellow; she was accompanied by the chanting of Robert Cazimero.

Hopkins, competing with 15 other dancers in both the kahiko (ancient dance) and 'auana (modern), danced to the chant Kahikilani about the goddess Kaiulani, by way of her guardian blackbirds telling the arrival of Kahikilani, the famous surfer from Kauai.

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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Chrissy Kama, of Halau O Ka Ua Kani Lehua, Hilo, performed last night during the kahiko portion of the Miss Aloha Hula 2003 competition.




Their happiness together is threatened by the gift of an ilima lei from an admiring maiden on the shores of Paumalu. Sadly, the kiss from this maiden would secure Kahikilani's fate of being turned into stone by the jealous goddess.

The contestants competed for the most prestigious solo honor in the world of hula and to take home the ipu heke, a ceremonial gourd.

Halau members and audience hula aficionados had been whispering since Wednesday about favorites for last night's performances, including Shelsea Lilia Makanoe Lindsay, daughter of Kumu Hula Olana Ai, of Halau Hula Ohana. She finished third last year and is the only return contestant.

Lauren Teani Kahiwahiwa Buchner, of Keolalaulani Halau 'Olapa O Laka -- He'eia, Kaneohe -- under Kumu Hula Aloha Dalire, was another favorite for a more complicated reason, a Merrie Monarch source said. Kumu Dalire won the contest 33 years ago, and later her daughters won it back to back in 1991 and '92, and another daughter in 1999.

"She has some precedence for doing quite well," said Dottie Thompson, who has run the festival for more than 30 years. "So it's going to be very interesting."

Then there were the two perennial Hilo favorites, the flamboyant choreography of Ho for Chrissy Kama and the more conservative, structured style of Halau Hula 'O Kahikilaulani's Ray Fonseca, who was entering this competition for the first time since 1999 with Gabrielle Kamalamalamaonalani Yamashita, 25.

Yamashita wore a bright yellow outfit of tapa-like material bordered by an earthy brown design. The dance included several moments of her in a sitting position, or noho, then gracefully standing up again, or iluna.

Anne Matsumoto, of Pukalani Hula Hale from Maui, danced the Ala Ia O Pele, which tells the traditional story of Pele erupting on the Big Island. Wendee Hualani Lim, of Halau Kealakapawa in Honolulu, danced Makalapua, the story of praise to Princess Liliuokalani, who is addressed as Makalapua in this chant, enjoying the ride aboard the royal train, Lanakila, from Halawa to Waipio.

Buchner's kahiko piece Lele Ana o Kaena honored Kaena Point for "its beauty ... and the crashing waves that darken the quiet faces of stone guarding the shore at Cape Kalaau, sprayed by the sea of Ewelua." Kama's lively 'auana dance spoke of "peaceful Kekaha on Kauai."

The 16 Miss Aloha Hula dancers are the most in Merrie Monarch history. Each performer is allowed seven minutes for each of the two dances. Last year's Miss Aloha Hula was Malia Ann Kawailanamalie Peterson, of Halau O Kamuela.


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40th Annual Merrie
Monarch Festival winners



Miss Aloha Hula

1st Place: Jennifer Kehaulani Oyama

Halau Na Mamo O Pu'uanahulu
Kumu Hula William "Sonny" Kahakuleilehua Haunu'u Ching
Honolulu, Oahu

2nd Place: Kara Leonani Chow

Na Hula 'O Kaohikukapulani
Kumu Hula Kapu Kinimaka-Alquiza
Hanapepe, Kauai

3rd Place: Hi'ilelokalani Costa

Ka Pa Hula O Kamehameha
Kumu Hula Holoua Stender
Kapalama-Uka, Honolulu, Oahu

4th Place: Shelsea Lilia Makanoe Lindsey Ai

Halau Hula Olana
Na Kumu Hula Olana & Howard Ai
Aiea, Oahu

5th Place: Ka'enaalohaokau'ikaukehakeha Aoe Hopkins

Halau I Ka Wekiu
Na Kumu Hula Karl Veto Baker & Michael Casupang
Honolulu, Oahu

Hawaiian Language Award (tie)

>> Jennifer Kehaulani Oyama

>> Kara Leonani Chow

>> Laura Leiali'ioKalanihekilimakaniilunaonapali Mano'i

Ka Pa Hula 'O Kauanoe 'O Wa'ahila
Kumu Hula Maelia Loebenstein-Carter
Honolulu, Oahu

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