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Oahu dancer is Miss Aloha

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A 25-year-old professional hula dancer from Makaha, Oahu, is Miss Aloha Hula 2016.

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A 25-year-old professional hula dancer from Makaha, Oahu, is Miss Aloha Hula 2016.

Kayli Ka‘iulani Carr of Halau Hi‘iakainamakalehua took hula’s most prestigious solo title Thursday night in the 53rd Annual Merrie Monarch Festival Hula Competition.

Carr finished with 1134 points, 11 more than first runner-up Brylyn Noelani Aiwohi of Kauai’s Halau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leina‘ala, who also won the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Hawaiian Language Award.

“I’m still in shock,” Carr said. “It’s been such a long process and it was worth every moment. Every one of the 14 minutes up there (on stage) is one that I’ll cherish and I’m just glad that I made my kumu, my hula sisters and my ‘ohana proud.”

The Kalihi, Oahu, halau is led by kumu hula Robert Ke‘ano Ka‘upu IV and Lono Padilla.

“I thought she was beautiful,” said Ka‘upu. “I was loving every minute of it.”

Ka‘upu is a Hilo native whose kumu include Johnny Lum Ho and the late Rae Fonseca. He received his ‘uniki, hula’s formal graduation, from Padilla’s mother, Hokulani Holt.

Ka‘upu said having his student win on hula’s biggest stage in his hometown was “amazing.”

“I hope I made Hilo proud. I hope I made my kumus proud,” he said.

Carr’s hula kahiko (ancient hula) was “Eo Keopuolani Kauhiakama,” a mele inoa (name chant) praising the royal lineage of Liholiho, with an ‘oli, or chant, that required a rapid-fire delivery.

“Once I hit the ramp, I know I have the support of all my hula sisters and I believe that was the driving force in my doing as well as I did,” she said. “They told me, ‘Don’t worry, you’ve practiced this a million times. Just enjoy it.’”

Ka‘upu praised Carr’s Hawaiian pronunciation.

“I worked with her on her ‘oli,” Ka‘upu said. “I will say, she got better than me. But that’s a kumu’s wish. You hope your students succeed you.”

Carr’s hula ‘auana (modern hula) was “Ka Makani Ka‘ili Aloha,” a turn of the 20th century love song by Matthew H. Kane with a kaona, or metaphoric subtext, about the ka‘ili aloha wind of Kipahulu, Maui, which was sent to recapture the heart of an estranged lover.

The next two spots were awarded to Oahu halau.

Ecstasy Jetta Laverne Kamakalikolehua Ligon of Ka La ‘Onohi Mai O Ha‘eha‘e took second-runner up with 1107 points, finishing two points ahead of ‘Aulani Kamea‘i‘omakamae Latorre-Holt of Hula Halau ‘O Kamuela.

The Big Island’s lone entrant, Kayshlyn Keauli‘imailani Victoria De Sa of Hilo’s Halau O Ka Ua Kani Lehua was fourth runner-up with 1090 points.

Known to her hula sisters as “Auli‘i,” the 22-year-old De Sa, who also danced in the Miss Aloha Hula competition in 2013, danced “He Mele No Ke Ali‘i Wahine Kapi‘olani” for her hula kahiko, a mele about High Chiefess Kapi‘olani proclaiming her Christianity by throwing stones into Halema‘uma‘u crater and eating sacred ‘ohelo berries in defiance of Madame Pele.

De Sa’s hula ‘auana was “Pua Pilikai,” a mele about gathering woodrose for adornments. Her father, Hilo High School baseball coach Tony De Sa, placed a woodrose lei around her neck during her dance.

“That definitely topped off the dance for me,” De Sa said afterwards. “I felt great. I felt excited. I felt wonderful out there.”

Johnny Lum Ho, De Sa’s kumu hula, said he was pleased with De Sa’s performance.

“She did what she was supposed to do and she did it well,” he said.

The group hula kahiko competition is tonight and the group hula ‘auana competition is Saturday night at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo.

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The festivities begin at 6 p.m. both evenings with the entrance of the Merrie Monarch royal court.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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