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Maui Takes Top Honors at Merrie Monarch

April 29, 2011, 12:00 PM HST · Updated May 3, 11:47 AM
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By Wendy Osher reporting via Hilo, Hawai’i

Maui no ka oi! The top two finishers at last night’s Miss Aloha Hula competition in Hilo were from our very own island of Maui.

Tori Hulali Canha of Halau Ke’alaokamaile, under the direction of Kumu Hula Keali’i Reichel, took top honors, winning the coveted title of Miss Aloha Hula 2011.

She is the second hula dancer from Ke’alaokamaile in three years to take the title, following in the footsteps of her hula sister, Cherissa Henoheanapuaikawaokele Kane, who won in 2009.

Canha performed Aia I Maui Ku’u Lei Loke for her kahiko, or ancient hula selection. The mele speaks of the sights and sounds of Maui’s storied places including the bays of Pi’ilani, the flowing waters of Ke’anae, and the sheltered calm of Lele.  As was the case with many 19th century chants, the mele was also recorded in a shorter version and set to music, now known as Ka Loke O Maui.

Tori "Hulali" Canha, Miss Aloha Hula 2011. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Canha performed Pua Lei Aloha for her auana or contemporary hula selection. The song speaks of love and affection, utilizing classic Hawaiian imagery in the verse, “my blossom, my beloved lei…entwined with fragrant maile.” The mele was composed by Bill Ali’iloa Lincoln in honor of Alice Pualeialoha Fredlund, elevating her to chiefly status in his eyes through the last line, “Ei mai ku’u lani.”

Just three points separated Canha from fellow Mauian and second place finisher, Manalani Mili Hokoana English, of Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka. Canha racked up a total of 1071 points, followed by English with 1068 points. Makanani Akiona of Halau Mohala Ilima, under the direction of Kumu Hula Mapuana de Silva, finished third.

Manalani Mili Hokoana English of Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka dances to Mi Nei, a hula in which the dancer searches from the uplands to the sea for that perfect, true love. Photo by Wendy Osher.

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The Festival continues tonight (Friday, April 29, 2011) with groups competing in Hula Kahiko. It concludes late Saturday (April 30, 2011) night with men and women halau competing in Auana Hula.  ***(For results visit our follow up story here)***

As part of her new duties as Miss Aloha Hula 2011, Canha will be featured in a parade in Hilo town Saturday (April 30, 2011) morning.

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