Aloha Dalire, one of Hawaii’s most beloved kumu hula, died early Wednesday morning at her home in Kaneohe, Oahu. She was 64.
Dalire, who was born in Honolulu and raised in Kaneohe, was the first Miss Hula — a title later renamed Miss Aloha Hula — at the Merrie Monarch Festival. She won the title in 1971 under her maiden name, Aloha Wong.
Dalire, who studied with the late hula master Uncle George Na‘ope as well as her mother, Mary Keolalaulani McCabe Wong, danced hula from age 3, before becoming a kumu herself.
“It’s a shock,” said Jacqueline “Skylark” Rossetti, radio personality and Merrie Monarch Festival’s Ho‘ike stadium host, Wednesday. “She had been ill … for quite some time, but it looked like she was beating it.
“She just got back from Japan on Friday. She had just done a show in Japan. … She even talked to (Merrie Monarch President) Luana (Kawelu) on Friday. … She told Luana they would chit-chat this week. It’s very shocking that she’s gone.”
Dalire was a fixture at the Merrie Monarch Festival, and her halau, Keolalaulani Halau ‘Olapa O Laka, competed more than 40 times, often winning or placing in the women’s competition. Her wahine won the hula auana, or modern hula competition, in 2013. For this year’s competition, hosted in April, she brought her kane as well, a rare move.
All three of her daughters, Kapualokeokalaniakea, Kau‘imaiokalaniakea and Keolalaulani, also won the coveted Miss Aloha Hula title, hula’s top solo wahine honor. Her granddaughter, “Kili” Lai, Kapua Dalire-Moe’s daughter, was first runner-up in this year’s Miss Aloha Hula competition.
In a statement, Dalire’s daughters said they “are saddened to report that our mother, Aloha Dalire has passed away early (Wednesday) morning in the comfort of her home in Kaneohe, Oahu.” The family has requested privacy as it mourns.
Rossetti said Dalire left “a huge hula legacy with her daughters.”
“It’s something that her mother passed on to her and she was able to pass on to her children,” she said. “I’m sure that the Dalire and the Wong legacy will live on.”
Dalire is survived by her daughters and 16 grandchildren. Services are pending.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.