ALOHA DALIRE / 1950-2014Kumu hula won first Merrie Monarch title
Nina Wu / email@example.com
Beloved kumu hula Aloha Dalire died early Wednesday at her home in Kaneohe. She was 64.
Dalire, who holds the title as the Merrie Monarch Festival's first Miss Hula (later known as Miss Aloha Hula) in 1971, was a well-respected kumu and mentor for many in the hula community. Her name was then Aloha Wong.
Born June 22, 1950, in Honolulu and raised in Kaneohe, Dalire began her hula studies at age 3 under the late hula master George Na'ope.
Her award-winning halau, Keolalaulani Halau 'Olapa o Laka, was founded by her mother, Mary Keolalaulani McCabe Wong, in 1963.
Dalire was dedicated to the Merrie Monarch Festival, bringing her halau to the competition in Hilo for more than 40 years, including this year, often placing first in the women's kahiko and auana categories.
"She was always so proud to be at Merrie Monarch," said festival director Luana Kawelu. "And it was such an honor for her to be the first Miss Hula. She used to tell us all, 'That's why it's named Miss Aloha Hula now.'"
Dalire's three daughters, Kapualokeokalaniakea, Kau'imaiokalaniakea and Keolalaulani, would also follow in her footsteps, winning the Miss Aloha Hula titles in 1991, 1992 and 1999, respectively.
At the festival's celebration of its 50th year in 2013, Dalire gave a special performance, along with her daughters and several generations of Miss Aloha Hulas.
"When I look back at the 50th year, when she came out as the first Miss Hula and all her daughters came out, followed by all the winners of the Miss Aloha Hula contest, that was her time to shine," Kawelu said.
"Through her daughters, her legacy will live. She will be sorely missed by each and every one of us, the kumu, the halau, the musicians. All of us will miss her, but she will be part of us."
The Dalire daughters issued a statement through spokeswoman Tracy Larrua saying they were saddened by the death of their mother, and requested privacy.
Last year, Dalire danced to the verses of "Ka Makani Ka'ili Aloha," reliving the performance that won her the Miss Hula title in 1971 for a Honolulu Star-Advertiser video (tinyurl.com/lgblt8x).
Dalire's life, as well as her three daughters' journeys to the title of Miss Aloha Hula, was documented in a film, "The Light in the Lady's Eyes." The film, by Ha Enterprises, a partnership between Kaui Dalire and singer Mailani Makainai, aired on KFVE before last year's Merrie Monarch Festival.
"Hula is in my blood," she told the Star-Advertiser that year. "It's what keeps me alive and keeps me going."
Dalire was still very active in hula this year, and traveled abroad often with halau from Hilo, California and Japan. She said in an earlier interview that she would often tell her students, "Hula is the expression of one's innermost feelings."
Kumu hula Lani-Girl Kaleiki-AhLo of 'Ilima Hula Studio in Waimanalo called Dalire her biggest cheerleader in times of need.
The family has ties because Dalire had studied hula under Kaleiki-AhLo's mother, Louise, and aunt Luka, in her early years.
"Any time I needed help with hula or I had a question about something, I could randomly call her," she said. "She would share her mana'o (thoughts) with me, and tell me, 'You'd better keep teaching hula. Your mom and auntie are so proud of you.'"
Kaleiki-AhLo, who spent time in prison in the late '90s for drug dealing, remembers that while she was on probation Dalire gave her the first opportunity to dance hula again.
"She danced from her heart," Kaleiki-AhLo said. "When she danced, you could feel the love inside and see the joy on her face that radiated from inside."
Dalire is survived by her three daughters, Kapua Dalire-Moe, Kaui Dalire, Keola Dalire and grandchildren. Information on funeral services is still pending.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased