Commentary in response to the first Merrie Monarch Hula Competition, 1971.

Hula Contest


I am writing as chief instructor of the Lanakila’ Brandt Dancers, a participating halau hula in the recent Miss Hula Hawaii Contest and its companion Group Competition, conducted as an adjunct to the 1971 Merry Monarch Festival.

I wish, first of all, to congratulate hula festival coordinator George Naope and his Committee for giving life to a most fervent wish often expressed over the years by the writer and many other hula people: Mahalo a-nui loa e ka Haku ame ke Komike!

During and following the competitions, I did seize upon every opportunity to elicit opinions from various of the participating kumu hula and mea hula in general. The reactions were extremely mixed, quite emphatic and, in my humble opinion, worth passing on to Naope, the Committee, and those many hula people I did not reach, so that we may all evaluate in the open forum. And that those who may disagree with expressed conclusions and impressions may read and offer rebuttal or augmentive comments.

All of those contacted . . . na kumu, na haumana ame ke anaina . . . were unified in their approbation for the revival of Kalakaua’s hula competition. But many were quite as articulate in their criticisms of certain aspects of the two competitions, to wit:

1—Competing groups and individuals should be clearly categorized according to their stated and-or known professional abilities and experiences or . . . their lack of such professional training; the average hula student, no matter how technically proficient, is not the competitive equal of a seasoned professional;

2—Speaking of categorization—Those whose competitive area is Ancient hula, i.e. Hula Pele, Hula Pahu, Ala’apapa, etc., should not be compelled to compete with contestants performing the post-European or Modern hula; such mixed competition places the judges, according to their individual training and disposition, in the hard position of being compelled to choose between, what may well have been, equally outstanding competitors and offerings . . . in two quite different forms of the dance;

3—And, let us carry that same categorizing yet a step further . . . so that keiki dancers may not again be competing against juniors and adults. Aloha ino!

4—That competitors should not be forced into stereotyped forms of hula through fear of bias on the part of perhaps overzealous judges when, in actuality, the supposed aberrant forms may well have valid basis in history; in short, let us give consideration to the professional standing of the kumu hula as history’s vehicle, before rejecting any competitive offerings;

5—Suggestions of “favoritism,” however ill-founded, might more readily be avoided if the five judges, first of all, were not all noted as specialists in one field of the hula; secondly, if, instead of being drawn predominantly from one island or the other, if the five were selected one-each from Hawaii, Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Molokai-Lanai; and, third, if judges were chosen with such meticulousness that none should sit in judgement upon his or her own . . . relatives or students;

6—Again, that suggestions of “favoritism” might be prevented . . . if all group and solo participants were limited very strictly in the number of dances they might perform in any one competitive appearance; a small number of competitors in the 1971 competition, both group and solo, actually performed what must be termed medleys of two and three numbers, one upon the heels of the other, rather than the one dance that was stipulated in pre-competition requirements;

7—That the Committee be perhaps a bit more discerning and discriminating as regards the era of the dances admitted for competition; it was opinion of many that certain of the dance performed this year were of post-Kalakaua periods;

8—That successive groups and individuals and-or their musical support form alternately on the left and then the right of the auditorium, giving musicians and dancers more time to prepare themselves, without feeling that they were being . . . pushed.

Lastly, our dancers, and our family, want friend George Naope and the Committee to know that . . . we shall be delighted to participate again in 1972.

Owau iho no me ke aloha.

[Wow, interesting words to consider today as well.]

(Hilo Tribune-Herald, 5/2/1971, p. 4)


Hawaii Tribune-Herald, 49th Year, Number 102, Page 4. May 2, 1971.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s