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Women performing hula
Hālau Ka Lā ʻŌnohi Mai O Haʻehaʻe (Image courtesy: Hawaii News Now)

Kumu hula R. Keawe Lopes, Jr. of Hālau Ka Lā ʻŌnohi Mai O Haʻehaʻe said he is very proud of his dancers after winning the 2023 Merrie Monarch Festival. Lopes is a Hawaiian language professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and the director of the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at the Hawaiʻinuākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge.

“Very humbled for the honor of being selected the overall winner of the 60th anniversary,” said Lopes, whose wife Tracie is also a kumu hula for the hālau. “Just thankful that we were able to present something that the esteemed panel of judges thought worthy of the title, and we are just ecstatic about that, for sure.”

Lopes’ hālau finished with 1,231 points edging out Hālau Nā Mamo O Puʻuanahulu, which finished second with 1,230 points. Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leināʻala came in third with 1,229 points.

“I think every kumu hula and every dancer that makes a commitment to the Merrie Monarch needs to be congratulated because the huakaʻi, or the journey, to the Olympics is not an easy one,“ said Lopes. “My hats off to all that commit devoting their time and their efforts and their family and their support to making it to the Olympics of the hula.”

For the third straight year, a dancer from Lopes’ hālau won Miss Aloha Hula, with Agnes Renee Leihiwahiwaikapolionāmakua Thronas Brown taking the 2023 title. His daughter, Piʻikea Kekīhenelehuawewehiikekauʻōnohi Lopes, a UH Mānoa graduate student, captured the 2022 title.

Men performing hula
Hālau Ka Lā ʻŌnohi Mai O Haʻehaʻe (Image courtesy: Hawaii News Now)
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