HANAPEPE — Twenty-one dancers from Ka Lei Mokihana O Leinaala, with their families and Kumu Hula Leinaala Pavao Jardin in tow, will leave for Oahu Wednesday.
The trip to Oahu culminates months of training, hard work and practice for the keiki dancers, 14 kaikamahine and seven keiki kane of the Kalaheo-based hula halau as they enter the Queen Liliuokalani Keiki Hula Competition at the Neal Blaisdell Center starting Thursday.
“This is like a pau hana blessing,” said Rev. Jade Battad during the final blessing and cleansing for the dancers on Thursday at Salt Pond Beach Park. “They’ve been working and practicing for all these months. Now, they cleanse themselves of all the sweat and take the stage.”
Ka Lei Mokihana O Leinaala is no stranger to the Queen Liliuokalani competition. In 2012, its keiki kane swept both the Hula Kahiko and Hula Auana divisions to bring home the Wendell Kalanikapuaenui Silva Overall Perpetual Trophy.
“We’ve got a really good group of kids this year,” said Jenny Balisacan, Pavao Jardin’s assistant. “They’re a really tight group and really step up to help each other.”
Pavao Jardin said Luke Hunadi will be representing the halau in the Master Keiki Hula competition, which takes place Thursday night.
“The song he’s performing, ‘Nui Kealoha o Kauai e,’ is written by Kale Hannahs from the group Waipuna,” Pavao Jardin said. “The song talks about Kale and his fiance’s trip to Kauai and was fascinated by its beauty following a helicopter trip. It also talks about meeting Kumu Maka Herrod.”
Hunadi, in an effort to fully understand the composition, retraced Kale’s journey in the hula via a Jack Harter Helicopters ride. From there, it was a journey on the ground, to meet up with Kumu Maka Herrod.
“I’m a little nervous about this,” the soft-spoken dancer said.
Jeslie Vidinha-Pavao will be the halau’s representative in the Miss Keiki Hula competition, performing “He inoa no Pauahi.”
“This will be the first time Jeslie will do the number on stage,” Pavao Jardin said. “The mele talks about Princess Pauahi, the founder of Kamehameha Schools, and her trip to the Mainland, where she sees the strawberry patches in California and loves the mist of Niagra Falls, comparing the beauty with that of Kauai.”
The Queen Liliuokalani Keiki Hula Competition started in 1976 by the Kalihi-Palama Culture and Arts Society to honor Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, according to its website at www.kpcahawaii.com.
The competition, which started as a day-long, multi-ethnic dance performance, now runs for three days, starting Thursday through Saturday, and has grown to include soloists, hula kahiko, a separate division for keiki kane and the Hawaiian language critique.
• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.