Kumu Hula Olana Ai on receiving the 2018 Likelike Award

Honored during the 43rd annual Keiki Hula Competition

Sponsored by Zippy’s

In 2018, Kumu Hula Olana Ai received the Miriam Likelike Kekauluohi Achievement Award during the 43rd Annual Queen Lili’uokalani Keiki Hula Competition, and dozens of her former students danced on stage and in the audience in her honor. HI Now spoke with the kumu hula about the honor.

Ai is renowned as kumu of halau hula Olana. She established the school along with her husband and fellow kumu, Howard Ai, in 1975. In the beginning, Ai operated the halau on a small budget, but with big dreams to instill a love of hula in youngsters. “There is nothing more worthwhile to invest in, than children,” she says. Today, Ai is known for always giving young dancers performing experience at community events.

Ai’s hula genealogy includes her grandmother, Annie Kaleikaulana Lake, who was well-versed in ancient hula training. Her mother, Blossom Kaʻiliponi Clark Kaipo, was her only hula teacher. She taught children at community centers in Wahiawa, Whitmore, Schofield Post, and on Wheeler Air Force Base.

In 1975, after teaching classes for May Day celebrations at Waiau, Waimalu and Pearlridge elementary schools, Ai was encouraged by other school teachers to begin her own hula classes, and they grew. “35 of us, Howardʻs duo with the keiki and kupuna, were doing a little hoʻike at Pearlridge Shopping Center when Wendell Silva and his wife saw our performance,” Ai says. “Mr. Silva soon invited us to the Queen Liliʻuokalani Keiki Hula Competition, and that was thirty nine years ago.”

The Kalihi-Pālama Culture & Arts Society established the Miriam Likelike Kekauluohi Achievement Award to recognize the exemplary support of keiki hula by a wahine in the community. The awardʻs namesake, Miriam Likelike Kekāuluohi Keahelapalapa Kapili, known officially as Princess Likelike, was sister to Liliʻuokalani and Kalākaua, Hawaii’s last two reigning monarchs, and Prince Leleiōhoku. She was also mother to Princess Ka’iulani.

The 44th Annual Queen Lili’uokalani Keiki Hula Competition will take place on July 25-27 at the Neal S Blaisdell Arena.

For more information: Facebook: @hulaolana, Instagram: @kumuhulaolanaai, keikihula.org