Multicultural Showcase: Merrie Monarch Hoike Night Features Dances of Hawaii, Mexico and Philippines

By John Burnett

Halau O Kekuhi performs during the opening Ho’ike for the 54th annual Merrie Monarch Festival on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium in Hilo, Hawaii. Photo: Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Thousands descended Wednesday upon the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium for the Merrie Monarch Festival Ho‘ike, a free exhibition of hula and cultural dance from around the Pacific Basin.

Hilo’s own Halau O Kekuhi, under the direction of kumu hula Nalani Kanaka‘ole, celebrated its 20th anniversary of Ho‘ike performances with a hula honoring Hi‘iakaikapoliopele, focusing on her travels through Kohala.

Photo Gallery of the 2017 Merrie Monarch Hoike

Multicultural Showcase: Merrie Monarch Hoike Night Features Dances of Hawaii, Mexico and Philippines

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The Royal Court is introduced during the opening Ho'ike for the 54th annual Merrie Monarch Festival on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at Edith Kanaka'ole Stadium in Hilo, Hawaii. Photo: Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Hula and Mexican Folk Dances

Dancers with Na ‘Ohana O Kahikilaulani O Mexico perform during the opening Ho’ike for the 54th annual Merrie Monarch Festival on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium in Hilo, Hawaii. Photo: Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Na ‘Ohana O Kahikilaulani O Mexico delivered a performance that included hula and Mexican folk dances. The halau, led by Aida Araceli Garcia Cruz, Brenda Marissa Morales Arzate and Esperanza Rosalinda Paredes Hernandez, takes its name from Hilo’s Halau Hula ‘O Kahikilaulani and is a product of international outreach by the late kumu hula Rae Fonseca.

Indigenous Dances from the Philippines

Dancers with Parangal Dance Company, from the Philippines, perform during the opening Ho’ike for the 54th annual Merrie Monarch Festival on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium in Hilo, Hawaii. Photo: Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Parangal Dance Company, a San Francisco-area dance troupe under the artistic direction of Eric Solano and music direction of Major Julian, performed dances from indigenous peoples in Luzon to the north, Visayas in the center of the island chain and Mindanao in the south of the Philippines. One dance in particular, a tribute to the Ata Manobo of northeastern Mindanao, chronicles the plight of the tribe at the hands of corporate and paramilitary interests. Julian noted “a parallel” in the plight of the Ata Manobo to struggles faced by Native Hawaiians and Native Americans, and the group proved to be a crowd favorite.

Hawaii Radio Legend “Skylark” Shares Her Thoughts

A dancer with Na ‘Ohana O Kahikilaulani O Mexico performs during the opening Ho’ike for the 54th annual Merrie Monarch Festival on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium in Hilo, Hawaii. Photo: Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

“It’s amazing. I was really surprised by their colorful costume and their style of dance,” said Hawaii radio legend Jacqueline Leilani “Skylark” Rossetti, a Na Hoku Hanohano lifetime achievement award winner who for more than three decades served as the voice of Ho‘ike before relinquishing the stadium’s microphone two years ago.

“Skylark” on Kona’s Young Kumu Hula, Aloha Victor

Dancers with Halau Kala’akeakauikawekiu perform during the opening Ho’ike for the 54th annual Merrie Monarch Festival on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium in Hilo, Hawaii. Photo: Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Wrapping up the night was Halau Kala‘akeakauikawekiu of Kona, under the direction of 33-year-old kumu hula Aloha Victor.

“It’s his first time at the Merrie Monarch,” said Rossetti, who narrated the halau’s performance. “He’s paying tribute to all of the people who have helped him in Kona. He’s saluting the families that are very special, that have songs written about them or who have written songs about these special places in Kona, that come from the side of the island all of his haumana (students) are from.

“It’s all about his hometown, Kona. Those special people include Aunty Fanny Au Hoy from Hulihe‘e Palace, whose mother, Aunty Lei Collins, was quite a musician and composer, who wrote plenty of beautiful songs.”

About Victor, Rossetti said, “I think he’s marvelous. He’s teaching the kids right. And he gets his chance to show that Oahu doesn’t have all the creativity and magic, that the Neighbor Islands are just as magical and fabulous.”

3 Nights of Competition Start Tonight

The Royal Court is introduced during the opening Ho’ike for the 54th annual Merrie Monarch Festival on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at Edith Kanaka’ole Stadium in Hilo, Hawaii. Photo: Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The three-night Merrie Monarch Festival hula competition starts tonight with 10 young women vying for hula’s most prestigious title for a solo dancer, Miss Aloha Hula. The group hula kahiko (ancient hula) competition is Friday night and the group hula ‘auana (modern hula) competition is Saturday night.

Festivities begin at 6 p.m. each day with the entrance of the Merrie Monarch’s Royal Court.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

For more information about the Merrie Monarch Festival, visit www.hawaii.com/merrie-monarch.

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