Merrie Monarch: Judging Criteria

Merrie Monarch: Judging Criteria

Provided by Uncle Ed Collier

Uncle Ed Collier is the kumu hula of Halau O Na Pua Kukui, and this year he will be celebrating 50 years of teaching hula.  Of those fifty years, he was also the kumu hula at 'Iolani School for 22 years.  Uncle Ed has a deep passion for the hula and considers the hula to be an endless process of learning.  He has also served as a judge at the Merrie Monarch Festival, as well as the numerous other competions here in Hawai'i, mainland USA, and Japan.  His halau has participated in the Merrie Monarch Festival and other competitions.

The judges for the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival are carefully selected by the Merrie Monarch Committee for their expertise, knowledge and years of kumuship in the hula.  They come from all different hula backgrounds and many of them, along with their hälau, have competed in this hula festival and other competitions as well.  

Serving as a judge in this and other competitions is not an easy task.  Having to sit for hours, watching then judging groups of dancers takes a toll on any individual.  Many times this is an unappreciated job, yet the public often make unkind comments because they disapprove of the competition's outcome.  These people are not paid for this service.  Their accommodations and other expenses are covered by the Merrie Monarch Festival.  It is not easy to get kumu who want to serve as a judge.

The criteria for judging the Merrie Monarch is as follows:

1.  Kai – is the entrance dance that precedes the hula and many times the first impression made by the hälau.  The kai in the hula kahiko and the hula auana differs a little. A chant is used in the hula kahiko and usually honors a deity of the hula; where as, in the hula auana, a mele (song) is used and sometimes could be a verse of the hälau's hula.

2. Interpretation – is the expression of the song(s) through the whole hula presentation.  This category encompasses everything-presentation, hands, feet, costumes, adornments.  In interpretation a group is able to receive the highest score of all the other criterias.

3. Expression – a manner in which the dancers are able to express the hula, chant or song through their faces, body movements, but more so through their inner self.

4. Posture – the carriage of the dancers' body throughout their entire performance.

5. Precision –  is the precise execution of the dancers' hands, feet and body throughout their performance.

6. Hand Gestures – the interpretation and description of the hands through the words of the chant or mele.

7. Feet Movement/Body Movement – the execution and refinement of the hula feet movements along with the hälau styling.  In a hula noho (sitting hula), the expression of the body movement is judged.

8. Hoi - is the exit dance after their performance.  The judging here is the manner in which the dancers exit.  Like the kai, the difference is a chant for the hula kahiko and a mele for the hula auana.

9. Authenticity of Costume – should reflect the period or time of the chant or mele.  Solid black in both the kahiko or auana is prohibited not unless trimmed with contrasting colors.  Cellophane skirts are also prohibited.

10. Adornments – in the hula kahiko should include four kupee (anklets and wristlets), lei äï (neck) and lei poo (head) and should be made of the foliage that represent the kinolau (body form) of the hula deities.

In the hula auana, the flowers and leis should be appropriate to the hula.  No silk or artificial flowers are allowed.

11.  Grooming – is an overall neat appearance in both costume and adornments and is complimentary to the period of the hula.

12.  Overall Performance – is judged when the hälau has met all the above criteria and the judge has a good, satisfactory feeling with the hälau's performance.          

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