As the sun set and the sky turned purple and, then, dark black, inside the Edith Kanakaole Stadium, the crowd found its seats at the 48th annual Merrie Monarch Festival. Twelve dancers vied for the 2011 title of Miss Aloha Hula. They would each dance one kahiko dance in the ancient tradition and one 'auana dance in the modern tradition, and by the end of the evening just before midnight as the rain fell hard outside, one would be recognized as Miss Aloha Hula.
It was a long, busy day.
My girlfriends and I nosed around downtown Hilo, stopping in a mix of consignment shops, candy stores and fabulous clothiers like Hana Hou, Hawaiian Arts and Sig Sane's Hawaiian haute couture boutique.
We made stops at the Pacific Tsunami Museum and the NOAA-sponsored Mokupapapa Discovery Center, featuring the islands and atolls of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
We picked up lei and browsed the Merrie Monarch Arts and Crafts Fair at the Afok-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
For dinner, we dined early stop at Cafe Pesto--where we highly, highly recommend the calamari pupu, the mushroom risotto, the artichoke pizza and the Blue Caesar--so we wouldn't miss a minute of hula, starting at 6:00 p.m.
Under bright, hot lights the wahine performed in front of several thousand guests and the festival's royal court--King Aaron Kaleo and Queen Kaleo Francisco. After 24 dances, Tori "Hulali" Canha stepped forward to accept the title of Miss Aloha Hula. At the same time, around the world, Kate Middleton received her own title--as wife of HRH Prince William of Wales and the royal one of "duchess," gifted by Queen Elizabeth II.
Tori chanted and danced her kahiko in a rose-red skirt for her home island of Maui. Kate said "I do," wearing white and a tiara loaned to her by the queen of England. The haku lei around Tori's head was made up of tiny, red and pink rosebuds. She danced to "Pua Lei Aloha" in the 'auana portion.
"It was actually a love song that talked about a dear sweetheart," she said, reported the Hawaii Tribune Herald. "Being that I'm in a very secure, most amazing relationship I could ever ask for, it was easy for me to internalize the melee and hopefully, I was able to bring that melee to life tonight.
Tori danced under the tutelage of Kumu Kealii Reichel for Halau Ke'alaokamile.