Updated: December 5, 2023
Agnes Renee Leihiwahiwaikapolionāmakua Thronas Brown was named Miss Aloha Hula 2023 at the 60th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival on Thursday night at the Edith Kanakaʻole Stadium in Hilo, Hawaiʻi.
Brown is a haumana (student) of Ka Lā ʻŌnohi Mai O Haʻehaʻe under the direction of Kumu Tracie and Keawe Lopes. This is the third year in a row that the hālau from Pūʻahuʻula, Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu took top honors in the soloist competition.
Last year, Pi‘ikea Kekīhenelehuawewehiikekau‘ōnohi Lopes earned the title of Miss Aloha Hula 2022; and in 2021, her hula sister, Rosemary Kaʻimilei Keamoai-Strickland, also of Ka Lā ‘Ōnohi Mai O Ha‘eha‘e, won the title.
Brown performed a hula ʻauana to the mele “Kuʻu Home A I Kāneʻohe,” which described the beauty and memories of a home that was once located beneath the Koʻolau Mountains in Kāneʻohe, Oʻahu. Her kahiko, “Pole Lauaʻe O Makana,” honored Kaumualiʻi, the last ruling aliʻi nui of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau. She earned a total of 1,148 points for her entries.
Second place (1,144 points) went to Breeze Ann Kalehuaonālani Vidinha Pavao of Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leināʻala, under the direction of Kumu Leināʻala Pavao Jardin of Kalāheo, Kauaʻi.
Earning 3rd place honors (1,143 points) and the Hawaiian Language award was Meleāna Kamalani Mirafuentes of Hālau Nā Mama O Puʻuanahulu, under the direction of Kumu William Kahakuleilehua Haunuʻu “Sonny” Ching and Lōpaka Igarta-De Vera.
Maui’s own Karlee Pōhaikealoha Rita Chong-Kee of Hālau Kekuaokalāʻauʻalaʻiliahi, under the direction of Nā Kumu Haunani and ʻIliahi Paredes, brought home the 4th place award with 1,130 points.
Chong-Kee peformed the mele “Ka Loke” for her kahiko selection, which honored Prince Edward Abnel Keliʻiahonui, who was the second cousin of King Kalākaua, and the son of Princess Victoria Kinoiki Kekaulike and High Chief Kahalepouli Piʻikoi. The hula was performed in both standing and sitting (noho) positions while using the ʻulīʻulī, gourd rattle implement.
For her ʻauana, Chong-Kee danced “Wahīikaʻahuʻula,” that honors Abigail Campbell, wife of Prince David Kawānanakoa. In a televised interview, she said the princess was a staunch political advocate and role model. The mele (song) proclaims that princess is the greatest of all beauties, “number one in sweetness,” said Chong-Kee.
Earning the 5th place award (1,129 points) was Nohealeimamo Vaughan-Darval of Hālau Hula Ka Lehua Tuahine, under the direction of Kumu Ka‘ilihiwa Vaughan-Darval.
In addition to Chong-Kee, Maui had two other soloists entered in this year’s event, which featured a total of 12 dancers.
Pōhaikealoha Olikolani Artates of Hālau Nā Lei Kaumaka O Uka, under the direction of Kumu Nāpua Greig, took the audience on an ocean voyage journey around Maui’s, and back to Honolulu in the kahiko, “Aia I Maui Kuʻu Lei Loke.” Her hula ʻauana, “Ka Pua O Ka Mākāhala” used the delicate mākāhala flower as a metaphor for a love affair.
Jill-Lyan Makanaokalani Mae-Ling Mamizuka of Hālau o ka Hanu Lehua, led by Kumu Carlson Kamaka Kukona III, performed “Ke Haʻa Lā Puna” for her kahiko selection from the legendary epic of Pele and Hiʻiaka. In her ʻauana Mamizuka captured the beauty of Pele and her fiery domain atop Halemaʻumaʻu.
Maui has four hālau competing this year:
- Hālau Kekuaokalāʻauʻalaʻiliahi, under the direction of Nā Kumu Haunani and ʻIliahi Paredes of Wailuku
- Hālau Nā Lei Kaumaka O Uka, under the direction of Kumu Nāpua Greig of Kula
- Hālau o ka Hanu Lehua, led by Kumu Carlson Kamaka Kukona III of Wailuku/Waikapū
- Hālau Hula Kauluokalā, under the direction of Uluwehi Guerrero of Kahului
Two More Nights of Hula:
In addition to the 12 Miss Aloha Hula entrants, there are a total of 21 hālau participating that will present 19 wahine and nine kāne performances in both the kahiko and ʻauana categories.
Four Maui hālau hula are competing in this year’s Merrie Monarch Festival. Competition continues with the kahiko, or ancient hula group competition on Friday night, April 14; and the ʻauana or modern hula group competition on Saturday night, April 15, 2022.
The Maui hālau will appear throughout the program on both Friday and Saturday night. The women of Hālau Hula Kauluokalā, under the direction of Kumu Uluwehi Guerrero out of Kahului, Maui are 2nd in the lineup, followed by the women of Hālau Nā Lei Kaumaka O Uka, under the direction of Kumu Nāpua Greig of Kula, Maui at No. 9.
Hālau o Ka Hanu Lehua performs just before intermission as 14th in the line-up, followed by the women of Hālau Kekuaokalā‘au‘ala‘iliahi at No. 23. The men of Hālau Kekuaokalā‘au‘ala‘iliahi will perform second to last, in the No. 27 slot on both nights.
TV viewing and streaming available:
Video of each performance is available here.
Watch the 60th Annual Merrie Monarch Hula Competition on https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/merriemonarch/ or by clicking the Merrie Monarch icon on the Hawaiʻi News Now app each night beginning at 6 p.m. HST on April 13-15, 2022.
The Merrie Monarch Festival is carried on K5 (Channel 6), Spectrum (Channel 6/Digital Channel 1006), Hawaiian Telcom (Channel 6), Direct TV (Channel 6) and Dish (Channel 8). Those using a broadcast antenna can find K5 on Big Island and Maui on Channel 6.1 and on Oʻahu on Channel 13.2.