HILO — Step by step, Hiwalei Aliser walked up on stage at the Merrie Monarch Festival Thursday night in Hilo. As the lights squared in during her solo performance, Aliser didn’t feel alone. She knew she had the entire island of Kauai with her.
“That was the best feeling, walking up on stage knowing that I brought Kauai to Hilo,” said the Pakala resident.
Alisar was one of 10 contestants performing in the Miss Aloha Hula, finishing third runner-up, a feat that sent shock waves through her veins and through her sisters of Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala.
“I just felt very humbled and blessed. I was able to go up on that stage and kind of bring life to Kauai, and that was my goal,” she said. “I was really shocked. It was a great feeling. To place, on top of everything, was shocking because I felt like I already did what I had to do, so it was a beautiful feeling.”
Aliser danced to “Ka Poli Laua‘e O Makana” for the hula kahiko portion and “Home Kapaka” for the hula ‘auana.
The title of Miss Aloha Hula went to Kelina Kiyoko Ke‘ano‘ilehua Tiffany Eldredge of Halau Hi‘iakainamakalehua, who edged Hula Halau ‘O Kamuela’s Julyen Machiko Kaloke Kaluna.
The journey to center stage hasn’t been without challenges for Alisar and her halau. A nurse at Wilcox Medical Center, Alisar put in a lot of overtime into her hula, but wouldn’t have been able to perform without her sisters and support from Kauai.
“It’s really been a hard journey. Wilcox has been really supportive, giving me so much time off, and my ohana on Kauai and hula sisters have helped me so much on this journey. It kind of felt like the whole island came together to make this happen. I hope everybody on Kauai was proud. We’re small, but we’re fierce.”
Alisar credits the beauty of her home and the people on Kauai for giving her the inspiration to find a voice for hula, to tell a story for the state to see.
“For me, it was an amazing sense of pride and feeling very lucky that we even have something so beautiful to talk about,” she said. “I’m glad I got to share that with everybody who could watch last night.”
Alisar only had seven minutes to perform, but said she and the other nine contestants really shared the spirit of aloha and showed a true appreciation for Hawaiian culture.
“It’s almost like an out-of-body experience as you’re dancing because you worked so hard for this moment,” she said. “I’m sure all of the other girls would say the same thing. You get up there and just feel so blessed to share that stage.”
Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina‘ala dances in the group hula ‘auana tonight in the No. 20 spot. The event starts at 6 p.m.