Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka La did a mele yesterday overlooking the cliffs of Kilauea caldera. Emi Crowell, left, Tatiana Tseu, Tiana Kuni, Kealolahilahi Koko and Mika Hirao-Solem huddled together before they began.

Halau undergoes
final rehearsals

The dancers of Ka Leo O
Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka La
take time to honor Pele with hulas

HILO » On a rainy morning at the Edith Kanaka'ole Tennis Stadium yesterday, Kaleo Trinidad and the kane of his hula halau had just finished a run-through of their dance that will be performed tomorrow night as part of this year's Merrie Monarch Festival.



Today is the competition for Miss Aloha Hula at the 42nd annual Merrie Monarch Festival at Edith Kanaka'ole Tennis Stadium in Hilo. The event starts at 6:30 p.m.

Trinidad was not happy with what he saw transpire in front of him while onstage.

"Let's hula!" he barked. "C'mon, focus on what you're doing. What's the point of this practice? Turn around," he told his young men, who had already exited the stage. "Let's do it again."

Trinidad's halau, Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka La, is just one of the many halaus that take advantage of the hour allotted each group this day to hone their performance for the vaunted competition, all under the watchful eye of Luana Thompson, the daughter of the festival's originator and matriarch, Dottie Thompson.

The young men responded to Trinidad's vociferous commands, most of them readying themselves by stripping off their red T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Ku I Ka Pono: Justice for Hawaiians." And it resulted in a better-focused "'O 'oe Ia e Kekuhaupi'o," their hula kahiko offering for Friday night, a mele inoa for the chief, warrior, friend and mentor of Kamehameha I.

When they were pau, Trinidad turned his attention to his wahine, who will be in competition for the first time this year at the festival, along with their Miss Aloha Hula candidate, Jeri-Lynn Kealolahilani Koko.

In a hula competition where placement in the evenings' programs is everything, Trinidad's kane, who performed near the beginning of last year's hula kahiko competition, are now in the second half after intermission, when the featured halaus perform. The same goes for his wahine.

The young ladies went through the paces of their hula auana, buoyed by the music of the Makaha Sons.

Then Koko, 25, even with pink curlers wrapped in locks of her hair, danced with a radiance to "Ke Aloha," especially in light of her being Makaha Son Jerome Koko's daughter.

The rest of the Trinidad halau were lining the front of the stage while she danced, occasionally breaking out in supportive applause.

A graduate of formal hula ceremonies under kumu hula Holoua Stender, Trinidad said he has been kumu hula himself for 2 1/2 years.

Participating in this year's Merrie Monarch Festival with more dancers, he realizes how much tougher it is for him. "Last year was a wonderful thing, and this year, after being invited back in January, there's so much more work to do."

Of his own lessons learned as the leader of his own halau, Trinidad said: "No one person does it all. It takes a team, a hui, a group of people to make it happen, whether they be family, friends who help pick flowers or work all night fixing dresses. It's wonderful that everyone is willing to help."

After the Honolulu halau returned to temporary headquarters in Kurtistown to recuperate, the group of former and current Kamehameha Schools students loaded up in four vans and headed to Volcanoes National Park later that afternoon.

Last year, Trinidad took his kane to the Halemaumau Crater lookout to honor Pele with dance. This time, the vans detoured to a little-used side road leading to the Kilauea caldera site.

"We look at Pele as an ancestor, part of our genealogy, our family line. And since we're here, we dance for her as she is manifested through this volcano," he said.

In the biting wind and occasional showers, the young men got out of their street clothes and into their malos. Trinidad located the right spot just off a path near the lookout that made for an appropriate impromptu hula pa.

As the halau performed the competition and other hulas for Pele, the sound of oli, ipu and drums mixed with the swishing of ti leaf skirts, most then an aging brown, and the sound of slippered feet crunching down on cooled lava rock as they danced.

When Koko did her hula, the rain temporarily stopped, the wind died and the sun peeked out of the gray cloud mass ever so slightly.

After a mele mai for Kamehameha and posing for a group photo, the rain came back, stronger this time ("a blessing," Trinidad would say later), as everyone scurried back to the parked vans.

And there were to be more rehearsals that night.

Merrie Monarch Festival

E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com