Hawai‘i Kids Take Top Honors at Maui Hula Competition

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Some of the youngest members of Hawai‘i Island’s newest hula hālau (dance troupe) took top honors recently at the 27th annual Hula O Nā Keiki competition held on Maui, Nov. 10 and 11 at the Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel.

Jana Kaholoa‘a with members of her hula halau Kawehileimamoikawēkiu’oKohala at Hula O Nā Keiki contest, 2017. Courtesy photo

Fourteen-year-old Brianna Lim-Ryder won the overall female award and 15-year-old Hokani Maria won the overall male award. Both teens are part of the Kawehileimamoikawēkiu‘oKohala hula hālau under the direction of Kumu Hula (hula leader) Lorna Kapualiko Lim, who is part of the award-winning musical Lim family.

In addition to the overall award, both young dancers won in the categories for best Hawaiian chant and best costume and adornments.

Among the prizes they each received was a $1,000 Akoni Akana scholarship to further their education in Hawaiian culture and hula.

Another young member of the group, Makana Thomas-Kaholoa‘a, 11, won the top award for male child dancer. Alyssa Lim-Ryder 11, won the interview part of the competition and placed in two other categories in her age group.


This is the first year the halau has entered the competition. The halau itself, which is based in North Kohala on Hawai‘i’s Big Island, was formed only two years ago.

“They did an amazing job; very proud of them,” said Jana Kaholoa’a, a real estate broker with Hawai‘i Beach and Golf Properties, who has a leadership role as an alaka‘i, or second in command, of the dance group. Makana Thomas-Kaholoa‘a is Jana’s nephew.

Jana helping a student in her halau prepare for a performance at the Hula O Nā Keiki contest, 2017. Courtesy photo.

The kids in Kawehileimamoikawēkiu‘oKohala edged out dancers in six other hula hālau to win top honors at this competition—the only one of its kind on Maui.

According to Kaholoa‘a, “The competition capped off four months of preparations and planning. As part of being an alaka‘i for the hālau, it’s my responsibility to help with the preparation of the dancers presentations, dances, lei and costumes.”


The group also held fundraisers to cover travel expenses to the competition.

“I’m very humbled and proud to have been part of this special event,” Kaholoa‘a said, helping the kids in the hula hālau not only compete, but win this renowned hula contest. Kaholoa‘a has danced hula since she was five years old.

“Over the years, hula has kept me in touch with my culture and ancestors,” said Kaholoa‘a. “Everyday life can be hectic, but hula has a way of removing myself from the present and taking me back to the past. I’ve gained so much knowledge and a variety of mele (stories) with each hālau with which I have been involved.”

She notes that her decades of hula training, and her tenure as Alaka‘i in a hula hālau compliment her real estate career.


“Both require a lot of aloha, incredible attention to detail, juggling multiple tasks and property listings, as well as an in-depth knowledge of the community and land,” said Kaholoa‘a.

Kaholoa‘a pointed out that just as being a real estate broker means more than just listing a property, so too being a member of a hula hālau is more than just dancing. Each member must memorize chants describing events in Hawaiian history and the natural beauty of places across Hawai‘i. Being a hula dancer means learning about native plants and flowers and traveling to forested areas where hālau members sing permission chants before collecting flowers and greens to make lei for their outfits. Dancers also study the names and history of geographic areas and the Hawaiian mele surrounding those areas.

Keiki dancer winners at Hula O’ Na Keiki competition at Hula O Nā Keiki contest, 2017. Courtesy photo.

Kaholoa‘a said the hālau is already looking forward to competing next year as well.

“I’m looking forward to what stories our kumu hula will present for the children to share,” she said.

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