Saturday, April 18, 2009

Live blogging Merrie Monarch: Hula `Auana

*** Updated every so often - scroll down to see the beginning of the post ***

Kamuela - Technical difficulties might throw off the "bots" (as SG calls them) a little bit ... or not. An interesting mele choice: it showcases their skills, but it almost seems like it would fit better in a Keiki Hula competition or something. We'll see what the judges think: this group does well year in and year out, but they've got some strong competition this year.

Sonny Ching's wahine - It's hard to argue with the near-perfect execution and beautiful interpretation here. I'm so glad he decided to use the majority of their stage time doing all the verses of the mele. Great performance.

Olana - I'm stumped about this one. I don't particularly care for this style - and I'm not crazy about the costuming - but I have no idea what the judges might think of it. There's certainly no shortage of expression.

Halau Mohala Ilima - I love, love, love these gowns with the white `awapuhi! Oh, man, I'd give anything to be there now, hearing this mele sung live. And the dancing is ... I'm running out of superlatives, but just exquisite. Mapuana always does such a beautiful job with the classics. They'll place, I guarantee.

Sonny Ching's kane - you're looking at your first place right there.

Keolalaulani Halau Olapa O Laka - When these girls are on their game, nobody can touch them -- they're what you expect hula dancers to look like. I do love this mele and their interpretation of it is superb. Definitely place-worthy, in my opinion.

Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka - The look is certainly striking, and the dancing is exquisite. Last night I accused these girls of not rehearsing enough; tonight is a different story altogether. Loved it.

Hokulani - I wonder if Aunty Hoku will ever opt to have her girls do `auana without shoes? They never seem to place, but I always like them. This was another solid performance.

I haven't done much blogging about the guys, and it's not that I don't care about them; I just love watching them for the fun of it and don't feel so compelled to add commentary, for whatever reason.

Halau I Ka Wekiu - Those gowns are elegant, but not terribly flattering, especially on the larger girls. The mele was okay, not exactly an instant classic, but the dance was lovely and well executed. I may have underestimated the Kumz.

Intermission - I may need caffeine if I'm going to make it through to the end. Time for a cup of tea.

Kahikilaulani (wahine) - I love it! An homage hula! Sweetie Girl, if she were here, wouldn't get this at all, because this is one for all the old-timers. The satin holoku are gorgeous (except for the puckered seams, hard to avoid with satin), and how about all that red carnation? Classic. Love this one. Fun ho`i.

Pukaikapuaokalani - Costuming and adornments are terrific, choreography's pretty good, but somehow they're all dancing like soloists, it seems to me. Meh.

Na Lei O Kaholoku - The good news: the Kohala girls are back! The bad news: white pumps?? Really? Maybe I should withhold judgment until after they dance ... Okay, here it is: beautiful mele, elegantly danced, loved how they sang along for the hui. I forgive them the shoes, and still think they're the ones to beat.

Halau Na Mamo O Ka`ala - Maybe it's the whole old-fashioned thing again, but I just love this costume. Or maybe it's because I danced in something very similar, 20-something years ago. I like these girls, their elegant simplicity.

Halau o Lilinoe - I adore this song, and love this rendition: just Aaron Sala and his piano. Well done by the Cali girls.

Ke`alaokamaile - stunning holoku, flattering on each of them. Keali`i's definitely got a shot here. I heard someone say they were favorites, though I wouldn't go that far, but they're strong contenders, no doubt about it.

Ka La Onohi Mai O Ha`eha`e - I just love this style, which Manu described as "old-fashioned." I guess that makes me old-fashioned too, but it's just so elegant, with the simple adornments (love the combs!) and the modest white dresses. Hmm .. they wore white last night too. I like it.


I can't believe I'm even thinking about doing this again for the third night in a row. I guess it's just an impulse, an itch I have to scratch, even if no one ever sees what I put down here.

I'm excited about tonight, and my thoughts go back a year, when I was there in that stadium and just so thrilled to be in the midst of it all. Someone had told me before I went that it's better on TV, because you can see the dancers up close and catch all the little details. That's true, but there's also something to be said for seeing everything as a whole, and feeling the energy and involvement of the audience. There's a whole lot there that you never see on TV. And on `auana night, you can't believe how incredible it is to hear that music live.

So here we go ...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Live blogging Merrie Monarch: Hula Kahiko

10:12 -
I'm pooped; think I'll just watch the rest on the DVR tomorrow.

10:00 -
Kaumaka O Uka - As Sweetie Girl just observed, ami kuku are hard to coordinate. And this group, who tend to be fairly strong, didn't have enough rehearsal time for this one, or something. It's a bit painful to watch those hips going every which way.

9:44 -
Hokulani: One of the great things about Merrie Monarch is that every year, there are different kinds of surprises. I forget what those rattle things they're wearing on their calves are called, but I love it! What a great effect, especially combined with the facial expressions and that ginormous pahu. Wow.

9:35 -
I would think it takes a great deal of confidence to present a hula like Kaulilua, knowing that each of the judges has probably danced it and/or seen it performed hundreds of times. This is an excellent performance - for a large group of young dancers, they are very disciplined, yet expressive. And I think I like their costume best of the night. Nice touch for Kapua to have her mom on stage with her.

9:09 -
I give these Halau I Ka Wekiu girls a ton of credit -- working with papahehi is way harder than it looks: you have to be exactly on beat, or else it sounds like a ripple effect. What we're seeing represents a lot of hours of rehearsal to get that hehi step right, then you add in the kala`au and chanting - impressive.

Intermission -
I need a break too; I feel like I've been washing dishes forever. For the last couple hours I have been going back and forth from the TV room to the kitchen and doing a little here, a little there. I'm gonna go finish everything now and be done with it!

8:18 -
I've got to hand it to Ray (or is it Rae now?) Fonseca: his girls had the necessary energy and hula chops to pull this off. But I have to question his going with such a, well, masculine style. If you're showcasing females, why not go with feminine? Maybe it's just me.

7:45 -
I love this halau from Kohala, and they are formidable. Have to say I absolutely love the adornments: lei hulu, what's the kupe`e, dried and braided la`i? - and the bone/tooth necklaces: exquisite. The gray in the temples is fake, yet it is a mature group, and I think that makes a difference, don't you? Absolutely mesmerizing, from ka`i to oli to mele to ho`i. First place is theirs to lose (my first prediction).

7:30 -
I get that it's Ray Fonseca and his boys (sorry, men) generally are pretty interesting, but I'm just not that into them. So I switched over to volleyball, just as they showed a great shot of The Coach! That handsome devil. Okay, back to hula ... I will admit I like the whole raffia thing.

7:15 -
No Luna I Ka Hale Kai No Kama`alewa is one of my most favorite hula `olapa, but in the hands of these girls, unfortunately, I'm disappointed. It's such an incredibly poignant story, and you just have to really get that and convey it. These girls do look really young; maybe not enough life experience yet to get it across.

6:35 -
As the evening gets started, there's a danger in being inattentive, if you think that "all" the good halau will come later on. Kimo told us last week that there are several good groups early in the program -- and I see he's right -- so we'd better stay focused.

Having said that, I'm pretty much dismissing the Vegas girls right off the bat. Sorry to be blunt, but you've got to acknowledge that at some level, just showing up and being on the stage is your victory. But I can't run away, because Tracie and Keawe are coming up ...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Live blogging Merrie Monarch: Miss Aloha Hula

UPDATE, Friday morning -
I'm pulling for this girl; I love Pohai, but I hope Cherissa wins. Her look is one thing, but her dancing is outstanding.
Hey, how about that?! First time I've ever called a winner! I actually did stay up for the results and agreed with every choice. So I guess the bottom line is, I really like this year's judges. Now I'm even more bummed that Sweetie Girl's kumu opted not to take the halau this year. Oh, well; next year, next year ...

Live-blogging was fun (I even had a blog follower -- mahalo for your comment, Fia!), but I can't keep it up tonight. For one thing, I have to be watching 2 volleyball matches at the same time (The Coach's team is playing, plus UH vs. USC), and for another ... it's kinda exhausting! But who knows, there might be times when I just can't resist a comment or two ...


10:45 - CC has gone home, SG to bed, and so none of us is going to stay up for the results. I can tell my brain is shutting down, so I doubt I'll be doing this again tomorrow night.

10:34 -
Pohai/Keolalaulani -- Well, what can you say when the song is dedicated to her mom (love you, Max!), the dancer's brother is accompanying her, and she's wearing practically the same dress as the one she wore as 8th grade queen? She looks beautiful, and her dancing is gorgeous. And how she has matured since she was last on this stage four years ago! Great performance.

10:25 -
C'ari Kealoha/Kamuela -- The dress is one of my favorites, and the lei is to die for. What an incredibly gorgeous rendition of Hi`ilawe. Beautiful girl, beautiful performance; it's a no-brainer that she's the other one in the top 2.

10:16 -
Kaholo Panui/Sonny Ching -- Manu O`o; another hula classic (you can see folks in the audience singing along). The gold velvet with yellow ohaialii is gorgeous. She's certainly expressive, well, captivating is probably more like it. CC puts her in the top 2; we could be looking at our winner.

10:07 -
Maria Kanehailua/Ka La Onohi -- So none of us is terribly wild about the costuming, but as a dancer she seems to be holding her own. Not a bad job for a first-timer.

9:57 -
Ashley Artis/Na Mamo O Ka`ala -- Cousin CC is terribly skeptical about this one, but it's refreshing, in a way, to see a traditional sort of look, and grace and subtlety applied to one of the true classics, Kawohikukapulani. I liked it.

9:49 -
Geri Emata/Maui -- The dress, lei, and kupe`e are the best of the night so far. This girl is a beautiful dancer, and the whole package; she's selling this one all the way. She's almost as good looking from the back as from the front! And a killer ending.

9:40 -
Nicole Taniguchi/Laniakea -- Great dress, great lei, excellent skills and she's clearly enjoying herself. Very pleasant to watch, and so much more personality than the one just before her.

9:30 -
Kiki Wheeler/Ka Wekiu -- She's an elegant dancer, but after the first impression has worn off, we've decided she looks too much like Hula Barbie. But the MidPac girl gets our props for wearing buffanblu:) Great hair, though ... she's gonna go places with that hair.

9:22 -
Cherissa Kane/K. Reichel: okay, midnight blue velvet, lei kahelelani, Big Island maile: what's not to love? I'm pulling for this girl; I love Pohai, but I hope Cherissa wins. Her look is one thing, but her dancing is outstanding.

9:12 -
Kristi Celebrado: Sorry, that red la`i skirt has been ruled by the judges on Laamia Place (SG, Cousin CC, and Plum) as an official wardrobe malfunction. It's just so distracting that we can't hardly see her dance. What a poor choice there.

9:00 -
Malia Marks/Olana is back with the bent-at-the-waist look. It is annoying, I have to admit. But I do like the song choice, Nani Kaua`i. And Howard and Natalie singing is always a highlight.

Intermission is almost pau, so I'm looking forward to `auana. But they're sure taking their time about it ...

8:11 -
Pohai Nu`uhiwa, Keolalaulani Olapa O Laka. Yay, Pohai! Been waiting all night to see you. Love your `oli; way to tell a story. How is she ever going to have enough breath to get through this?? Costume, adornments: perfect. And the maile at the waistband is my favorite. I'm biased, of course, but she gets my top 3. Hope the judges agree.

8:00 -
C'ari Kealoha, Hula Halau O Kamuela. Another top 3 probable, just by virtue of her halau. Sometimes pedigree is everything ... Now, that's a la`i skirt! A lot of energy in a fairly traditional choreography. Love the red. She pretty much nailed it.

7:51 -
Kaholo Panui, Halau Na Mamo O Pu`uanahulu. Okay, here's our boy Sonny Ching, renowned for turning out Miss Aloha Hulas. You can feel the energy level go up. You just know she's going to be top 3, easily, Sonny works these girls so hard, you can expect no errors whatsoever. I'm not so sure I like the eye thing, but it seems to work for Sonny.

7:43 -
Maria Kanehailua, Ka La Onohi Mai O Ha`eha`e. I'm so excited to see Tracie and Keawe Lopes at MMF for the first time. They very much belong here. I predict this dancer, albeit a rookie, will do well. I loved everything: the chant selection, the costume, choreography, her performance -- it all worked for me. I think the judges would like it.

7:32 -
Ashley Artis, Halau Na Mamo O Ka`ala. I've seen this girl before as a soloist at Hula Oni E. She's one of their alaka`i, I think. Love this gray costume with the red lehua. I like Noelani's choreography, and Ashley is a beautiful dancer, but there's something missing. Can't put my finger on it. And why does she always say "ilaila" for her kahea? A solid performance, but I don't see the judges scoring it real high.

7:22 -
Gerilyn Emata, Halau Ka Hanu Lehua. What's this?? Roselani? Interesting. Love the lei a`i, not so crazy about the lei po`o. Like her `oli voice a lot. The ombre pa`u, not so much. But I love this girl's energy and connection with the audience. Can't wait to see her `auana.

7:15 -
Nicole Taniguchi, Halau Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniakea. Finally, lei that's not red and yellow lehua. Not that I don't love lehua -- we've got both colors in our yard, the red's going off right now -- but I do love ilima. I like what Kapua Dalire Moe does with her dancers: she's not just a clone of her mom, and she maintains a good balance of the traditional and the creative. I liked this one.

7:03 -
Kiki Wheeler, from Halau I Ka Wekiu. A Mid-Pac student, so my sister-in-law is particularly interested. These guys have had a bit more success with their kane than their wahine, so we'll see. Oops, did I just see a cross step?!?! Well, that's unfortunate.

6:55 -
Cherissa Kane, Halau Ke`alaokamaile, Maui. Keali`i Reichel's girl. Love her `oli. And don't you just love it when the big girls can move that good? Some of her footwork is ever so not precise, but her hands and expression are spot on. I've always loved this chant of his; glad he chose it for her.

6:44 -
Second dancer: Kristi Celebrado, from Kaua`i. First time at MMF for this halau? I can tell you right now the judges are not going to score this one very high. KITV made such a big deal about this being the first Merrie Monarch to broadcast in HiDef; she's going to regret seeing herself on the replay with her kupe`e spraying all over the stage.

6:35 -
First dancer: Malia Marks, from Halau Hula Olana. SG is unimpressed: too bent over, and what's she doing with her mouth? I like the Olana girls for their discipline, but their style is not my cup of tea.

6:30 -
They just introduced the judges, and I'm so excited to see my kumu sitting there! First one to be introduced. I'm happy to see the red shirt he chose is not too overwhelming. He told us last week in class that he was still deciding what he would wear each night, but he was pretty sure he was going to wear a red shirt, with a tie and vest, for Thursday night. I thought the red might be too much, but it looks good. I hope he behaves himself -- he tends to clown around a bit, telling us last week that he was going to be texting while judging, and stuff -- but I'm sure he's taking this plenty seriously. I'm happy for him to have this opportunity.

6:00 pm -
I've never live-blogged anything before, so I have no idea how this will go. Still, I'm giving it a try. At the moment, I'm still fixing dinner and running back and forth to the TV room. Oh, good, Sweetie Girl and the Coach just got home, so I can have SG monitor the action while I finish making salad.