Halau Ka Lei Mokihana brings home hardware

LIHU‘E — Ka Lei Mokihana o Leina‘ala, a hula halau based in Kalaheo, returned to Kaua‘i on Sunday with a lion’s share of awards from the 36th annual Queen Lili‘uokalani Keiki Hula Competition.

Halau Ka Lei Mokihana of Mokihana was one of eight kane halau participating and one of 18 kaikamahine halau in the three-day hula festival that wrapped up Saturday at the Neal Blaisdell Center on O‘ahu.

The Kalaheo halau, under the direction of kumu hula Leina‘ala Pavao-Jardin, started collecting its awards when Java Kona finished as the third runner-up in the Master Keiki Hula competition Thursday night.

Taelor Sagucio, the halau’s representative in the Miss Keiki Hula competition, may not have placed, but was honored with a special scholarship recognizing her dedication to school and hula, Pavao-Jardin said.

The kane from Kalaheo went on to capture top honors in its kahiko performance and second place in the ‘auana hula, just missing the overall award, according to some of the parents who waited anxiously for the group’s return at the Lihu‘e Airport.

“It must have been close,” Pavao-Jardin said. “The halau which won overall in combined points is from Maui and finished second in kahiko and first in ‘auana. It was a flip-flop of our kane.”

Tom Clements, whose grandson is a kane dancer with the halau, said the performance was captivating.

The kaikamahine of the halau rebounded from a disappointing Miss Keiki Hula to finish third in its kahiko performance before soaring to a riveting first place finish in its ‘auana performance, Saturday, and after combining its overall points was awarded the overall group award.

“I told the girls to put themselves back in the train,” Pavao-Jardin said. “They had the experience of riding Paulo, the Grove Farm Homesteads Museum steam locomotive, to inspire their performance about Lanakila, a Dillingham locomotive which was used by Queen Lili‘uokalani.”

That piece of advice must have worked for the girls captured the attention audience and judges. Parents were watching the YouTube version of their performance on their smart phones while waiting on the group to deplane.

The performances of all the groups and soloists will be broadcast on KITV 4.

The Kalihi-Palama Culture and Arts Society organized a festival to honor Hawai‘i’s last reigning monarch, Queen Lili‘uokalani in 1976, states the Kalihi-Palama Culture and Arts Society website.

During that day-long event at the A‘ala Park on O‘ahu, the public was treated to multi-ethnic dance performances, Hawaiian craft demonstrations, a pageant of Hawai‘i’s mo‘i wahine and the first keiki hula competition.

Wendall Silva and George Naope, key organizers of the event, envisioned a competition where children could share their achievements in hula while learning about Queen Lili‘uokalani, her ‘ohana and Hawai‘i’s past.

Visit www.kpcahawaii.com for more information.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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