Kayli Kaʻiulani Carr tells a story through the hula.
By Ed Diokno
The hula has become such an essential – some say trite – part of the tourist experience in Hawaii that it is easy to forget the significant role it plays in retaining the culture and heritage of native Hawaiians.
You won’t find grass skirts and coconut shell bras at the 53rd Marrie Monarch Festival, a celebration of the hula held annually. Earlier this month, Kayli Ka’iulani Carr, 25, won the competition to be named the 2016 Miss Aloha Hula.
For many native Hawaiians, hula is not simply a dance, but a way of life. In ancient Hawaii, hula was a way of communicating stories and perpetuating the traditional culture — a lesson that Carr takes seriously. She was one of the 12 contestants representing their hula schools. She is from the 10-year old Kalihi-based Hālau Hiʻiakainamakalehua, a relatively new school.
Social media is still buzzing about Carr’s performance on the first night of the contest when she performed a fast-paced traditional hula. Part of the hula included an oli, a chant in the Hawaiian language, which she delivered, appearing at times that as if she was in a trance. The oli, “Mele Inoa No Kīhāpiʻilani,” exalted the royal line of Liholiho. But you don’t have to understand it to appreciate the intensity of her performance.
That set up her inquired khaki (traditional hula), with strong and precise movements.
“It felt awesome, wonderful,” said Carr, who performs at Chief’s Luau at Sea Life Park. “I really just tried to be in the moment. I mean, it’s only 14 minutes and you work so hard. You work for four months to get to this point. I didn’t want it to pass me by too quickly.”
Watch Carr’s performance and see if it doesn’t raise the hair on your arms.