The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, a fascination destination for me, was celebrating its 50th year of competition.
I tried to envision the old gym it was held in. Open sides I was told and very cold in the evening. In my mind’s eye I could see the portable benches going up the sides of the building, the smell of old wood and everyone sitting where ever they could in a first come first serve seating.
And now here I was and I was pleasantly surprised. My son dropped me off in the front while he drove around looking for parking. Parking was at a premium to say the least. I stood in the front lot looking at all the peopled dressed in various stages of casual to beautiful full dressed Polynesian. Muʻu muʻu and hand-made lau hala hats with huge flowers pinned in the hair.
From a distance I saw this man dressed in Hawaiian costume talking on a cell phone. I thought he was just a sort of welcoming committee. But later inside he was to proceed Princess Kawananakoa, A distant decedent of King Kalakaua, as she was ceremoniously guided to her seat.
Now if there are any of you out there who would know what the proper name for his position is I would be very happy if you could fill me in.
We sat right behind these people and had the best view of the stage even though it was a side view
You are looking at about three-fourths of the audience.
King Kalakaua. He was known as the Merrie Monarch. He was responsible for bringing back the Hula. During his reign he defied the missionaries who had banned the dancing and at all his events he would have halaus perform. Thus the name of the competition.
This is the Kahiko competition. Kahiko is the ancient style of hula. It is danced to the sound of drums and chanting. There is no music or singing. My camera was heavy as I carried it that night but I was so excited to be able to at last have a zoom lens and capabilities to get shots without blur. Unfortunately I also became a critic and kept waiting for the right shot instead of just firing away.The only got this shot of these men.
This young girl proceeded her halau with what is called a hoʻokupu or gift or offering. I’m not sure who or where she took it to as I could not see once she got off the stage.
Here the dancers are getting ready to enter on to the stage. The seated woman is their kumu or teacher. She will do the chanting and the playing of the ipu or gourd.
This particular style of dressing was not what I thought was indicative of the kahiko. Since we were unable to get a program, as they were all sold out, I was not sure what they were performing. Even though I had read as much news on this particular competition I never read that the kahiko might be from a later period of time. When I think of Kahiko I think of pre-contact or Captain Cook’s time when drawings and written accounts were first made available of Hawaiian dancing. I know they never dressed like this.
I was a bit disappointed and again I chose to wait to do more photographing once the more traditional dancers came on. Boy was I in for a surprise. As the break between each performance came on I was trying to line shots up as I looked at the stage and audience with my camera. As I held my camera up to my eye an usher came up to me and said “excuse me, you can not use DSL’s to photograph this event unless you have a special pass.”
What? Why not I asked as I looked around at all the cameras going off. He told me I could use my camera phone or point and shoot. And what was I going to do with my cell phone? I looked at my son and all the people in front of me who had turned around and seemed to be as perplexed as me.
There was a time when this competition had almost failed because it just was not catching on. And now that it is world renown and they are selling shirts, books, and what have you they don’t want you to take a good photo as they (I think) are afraid you might sell it and make some money? Of course this may not be true but this is exactly what I felt.
So my son turned to me with my old Nikon point and shoot and said to me. “Good thing I brought it yeah?” He was laughing but he was mad. I was not laughing and wanted to leave. At last I calmed myself down and put my heavy, no use to me camera away and turned on the point and shoot.
So in part three I will continue with blurry photos and not as close up shots as I would like. Seems like old times doesn’t it?