top of page

About our hālau and legacy

Tradition. Respect. Discipline. Unity. Aloha.

Kumu Hula,
Mokihana Melendez

Aloha! My name is Candace Marie Kananiokamokihana Melendez. I began showing interest in hula t the age of 2 years old. When I was only 3 years old, I would sit down and imitate and mimic tapes of people chanting. At the age of 5 years old, I started my formal training through Kumu Hula- Auntie Kathy Kapua Templeton. Through Auntie Kathy, I learned the necessary basic hula steps which later on in my hula career would become a great asset to me. After dancing with Auntie Kathy for 4 years, she explained to me that I would have to learn hula through a different path. She then introduced me to my next Kumu- Auntie Gloria Napualani Fujii.


Auntie Gloria taught me the necessities on how to become a great show dancer. She taught me make-up application but most of all taught me how to enjoy and appreciate my hula.While dancing with Auntie Gloria, I was able to compete ins everal competitions in the state as well as in California and Canada. Auntie Gloria gave me the honor of competing for Ms. Keiki Hula in the 1988 Pacific Northwest Polynesian Dance Competition. During that time, I started to focus more on Tahitian dancing so my mother enrolled me into Kumu Hula- Uncle Newton Ka`anohi Hitchcock's tahitian classes.


Uncle Newton was also the founder of the Pacific Northwest Polynesian Dance Competition. Under the direction of Uncle Newton, my interest for hula began to grow. In the fall of 1988, I became a haumana of Ka`anohi's Hula Halau. At this point, I knew hula would be a part of my life forever. Uncle Newton taught me how to research songs, refine my chanting, be humble and most of all express my feelings within my dancing. Discipline played a major part with his teaching which I truly enjoyed. Through him, I knew one day that in my heart I would become a kumu hula. When I was with him, I felt strong and confident in my kahiko. I was fortunate enough to be part of the exhibition group that Uncle Newton took to the 1989 Merrie Monarch Festival. During that experience, I was able to meet many renowned Kumu Hula, some of which I still keep in contact today. On July 2, 1989 my world fell apart when Uncle Newton passed away after a massive heart attack at the age of 36. At this point, I didn't know if I wanted to continue on with my hula. I took a four month leave from dancing to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.


In October 1989, I began to dance and assist in teaching for Kumu Hula- Auntie Ku`ulei De Los Santos. Auntie Lei taught me how to design costumes and to be a graceful `auana dancer. After 6 months with Auntie Lei, I decided to take another break, but this time it was to focus on my school studies.


In June of 1990, I was asked by the late Kumu Hula - Auntie Claire Cortez to dance in her Polynesian floor shows. Since Auntie Claire and Uncle Newton were friends, I felt that they were similar in ways with their hula but most of all in their styles of tahitian. After dancing with Auntie Claire for about 5 months, I became her Alaka`i for the halau. Auntie Claire gave me the opportunity to choreograph mele, arrange music, design costumes and most of all, she allowed me to teach the classes. In July of 1996, I decided to part ways with the halau and further my horizons. I felt the only way that I could progress in my hula life, I needed to imua.


After leaving the halau I began to receive phone calls for private lessons. At the same time my hula sister and life long friend, Regina Kuananiakua Shimomura also began to receive phone calls for private lessons. We decided that together we could begin teaching. My primary focus would be in kahiko and her focus would be `auana. In August of 1996 with 5 dancers, Ka Lei Mokihana No Ke Akua was born. A year and half after the halau was created Gina wanted to focus more on family and gave me the responsibility to lead the halau into the future. Since that time I have had the pleasure of sharing the hula with 100+ dancers as well as many, many spectators.


In August 2015, the halau evolved to the next level and became Halau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe. With the leadership of one of the original alaka`i and charter member of the halau, Noelani Ragudos is assisting to lead the halau to the next level. Every day of my life is filled with hula. Watching the sky, the trees, plants, flowers, people......anything in nature represents the hula. The keiki, wahine and kane that I teach one day will pass the knowledge to others which will keep the hula alive and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture.


Although I have danced with my na kumu hula, I have had the pleasure to take workshops with several kumu hula such as; The late Hula Master, Uncle George Naope, the late Auntie Tiare Clifford, the late Uncle Ray Fonseca, The late Auntie Mililani Allen, The late Auntie Aloha Dalire, The late Auntie Leina`ala Kalama Heine, the late Uncle Palani Kahala, The late Doric Yaris, Auntie Iwalani Kalima, Uncle Etua Lopes, Auntie Kealoha Kalama, Uncle Tony Conjugacion, Uncle Kimo Alama Keaulana, Uncle Johnny Lum Ho, auntie Pi`i Lani, Uncle Kawai Cockett, Uncle Willie Pulawa and Kaui Dalire.


Besides passing down my knowledge to children, I have been blessed with 3 beautiful children of my own. My son- Kamalani (28), daughter- Hemakanamaikapu`uwai (22) and my youngest son- Kahanuolaokalani (20). I also have two hanai children Keahipio`ole (daughter) and Ka`i`inimalulani (son). My keiki will one day carry on my teachings within the halau. My inspiration besides my children comes from my mother, Adelina Marticio also known as Auntie Addie. She has been my backbone, my cheerleader and my biggest critic. Without her I wouldn't be where I am today. She has always taught me a very important thing- "A`ole i pau ka ike i ka halau ho`okahi- All knowledge is not taught in one halau."

Po`o Pua`a, Noelani Ragudos

Aloha! My name is Noelani Ragudos and I am the Po`o Pua`a for Hālau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe. I started dancing hula at the age of 10 years old. I first danced with Rosemond Aho for two years. I then went to dance for Ke Liko A’e O Lei Lehua under the direction of the late Kumu Hula - Aunty Claire Cortez until I was 16 years old. Dancing for Aunty Claire I was exposed to many different styles of Polynesian dancing. I learned not only hula but other Polynesian Island dances such as Tahitian, Maori and Samoan. I had the privilege of traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest doing performances and festivals.

In 1996 I went to dance with Ka Lei Mokihana No Ke Akua under Kumu Hula, Candace Kananiokamokihana Melendez & Regina Kuananiakua Shimomura. I had the distinct honor of being chosen to represent our hālau at the 2001 Mai Kahiki Mai Hula, Oli and Falsetto Competition as Miss Kūkahi Hula where I competed against other well skilled dancers from the Pacific Northwest, California and Hawaii. With the support and guidance of my kumu, my hālau and my ohana, I placed 3rd amongst the 11 other soloists that competed in my category. In 2001 upon completion of my soloist training, I was asked by Kumu Mokihana to become Po`o Pua`a for the hālau.

Besides the Kumu Hula that I have trained with I have also had the pleasure of taking workshops with The Late Master Kumu Hula, Uncle George Naope. He was kind enough to help train me for my Miss Kūkahi soloist competition. I have also taken workshops with Kumu Hula-Uncle Willie Pulawa and Kumu Hula-Auntie Momi Palmieri.

In 2015, the hālau evolved and became Hālau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe where I have been able to choreograph mele, teach classes and learn other facets of what it is to lead the hālau. 

I love what our culture represents and this is why I enjoy teaching others about things hula and hawaiiana. I believe that it is our kuleana to pass on to our keiki what our ancestors have given us. I also want my kids to know their heritage and where they come from.

Washington branch

Alakaʻi, Brianna Mae-Ku’umomimakamaeuluwehi Bevis

Aloha! My name is Brianna Mae-Ku’umomimakamaeuluwehi Bevis and I am an Alaka’i for Hālau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe. While I learned a few random mele from my aunties and grandma back home, I didn’t really start dancing hula until 1999 with Kumu Hula - Aunty Gloria Napualani Nahalea of Hālau Hula ‘O Napualani. My family had moved to Seattle, WA from Honolulu to pursue better schooling. I felt so alienated from the culture shock and chose to dance with my mother to get back to my roots. Aunty Gloria introduced me to the necessities of hula basics, commitment and dedication to compete, and how to be a great show dancer. She also exposed me to different Polynesian styles of dancing such as Māori, Sāmoan, and Tahitian. 

After several years with Aunty Gloria, my mother and I went on to dance under Kumu Hula - Aunty Candace Kananiokamokihana Melendez of Ka Lei Mokihana No Ke Akua. It was here that I truly found my love of the kahiko style of hula. 

Our hālau even competed and placed in the kahiko category at the annual George Naʻope Festival in 2002.

Around 2006, I stepped back from dancing traditionally, but joined my church hula worship group. We learned how to dance in honor of God, and how to utilize our love of Hawaiian culture to share our faith and Aloha with others. Dancing hula worship taught me great patience and understanding, as most of the dancers did not have any hālau experience or a hula lineage.

In 2013, I rejoined Aunty Gloria, with my mother. We performed at many festivals and private shows, including Live Aloha and Folklife Festival. It was fun to get back into show-dancing and just enjoy being around those who understood my love for dancing. In 2016, I had gotten married and moved up to Skagit County which made traveling to classes more difficult. Along with that, while it was wonderful to dance alongside many haumana that I grew up with, I found that I had learned what I could from Aunty Gloria and it was finally time to imua.

I found and joined Tamali’i Polynesian Dance in 2018, under the direction of Aunty Yolanda Taufa’asau-Vincent. While we danced hula, the primary focus was Tahitian dancing. Aunty Yolanda taught us the difference between a Hula Hālau and a Polynesian Dance Troupe. While I was honored to learn some Ōlelo Hawai’i and hone back in on my hula basics, I realized that being in a dance troupe was not what I needed. I left with some sadness in my heart as I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find what my na’au was searching for, especially with how far north I live.

Just a few weeks later, Aunty Mokihana called out of the blue, to discuss branching out her Hālau further north. This was my sign that I needed hula and would need it for the rest of my life. I jumped on the opportunity and am now back with her at Hālau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe. After 2 years, Kumu asked me to become an Alaka’i in training. I have since began learning how to teach, choreograph mele, and what it will take to become a Kumu Hula and lead the Hālau.

Teaching and public-speaking of any kind has always been a challenge for me, being an ambivert, but I enjoy confronting my insecurities. The opportunity to spread the knowledge of our culture and history of our lāhui will always take precedence over any personal fears. It is our kuleana to keep Hawai’i alive in all facets, and I look forward to kokua ana. 

Alakaʻi, Casara Desiree Hemakanamaikapu`uwai Caro

Aloha, my name is Casara Desiree Hemakanamaikapu`uwai Caro. Hemakanamaikapu`uwai was given to me by the very first Miss Aloha Hula 1971, Pomaialoha "Aunty Aloha" Wong Dalire. My name translates to "The Gift of My Heart". I also have the honor of calling the The Makaha Sons my Godfathers.

I am an Alaka`i of Hālau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe and the only daughter of Kumu Hula Mokihana Melendez. I am born and raised in the Seattle area. Hula has always been a part of my life, starting from the womb. Hula was not only a part of life, hula was life. I remember when everyone used to come to our house in Federal Way, WA for classes and it was always filled with Haumana. We ate together, had sleepovers, made costumes and some would even take care of my siblings (Kamalani and Kahanuolaokalani) and myself while Mom was teaching. With Hula life, I inherited an `Ohana - some have moved on, but plenty are still in my life today.

I was dressed in my very first pa`u when I was 4yrs old when Halau was competing in the 2003 George Na`ope Northwest Invitational Hula Festival. I memorized every word spoken, chanted and sung just by observing classes. I remember watching Mom practice and I would mimic her movement in the background, mesmerized by the music and flowing motions of her hula. Hula was never a forced obligation, Mom always gave me the option to dance or not. If I wasn't dancing, I still had kuleana to be involved and learned that I preferred to be behind the scenes designing, ironing and measuring fabric for costumes or making pua for the performances.

When I felt that I lost interest in hula, I tried out and made the Federal Way Hawks Cheer Team. I continued to cheer until the age of 7yrs old and also discovered my love of cooking. I enjoy cooking all kine for family & friends, especially for my Granny. From then on, I still continued to cook while contemplating whether or not hula was something I wanted to pursue.

In 2013 at 13yrs old, I decided I wanted to give hula a try, but found it very intimidating to be Kumu's daughter and fall in line with my hula sisters. The only way I was comfortable dancing was if I was being taught by someone other than Mom. I felt a lack of confidence, motivation and appreciation for hula. This was not an unappreciation for hula or my culture, I had my own internal struggle with the level of commitment, focus and found it difficult to handle the stress of having Mom's approval as Kumu Hula. I could only take classes taught by my Aunty Nani (Po`o Pua`a) and Aunty No`eau (Ho`opa`a) since they have been in my life from birth.

At 16yrs old, something clicked...I found my mana and all of a sudden I felt I was ready to commit to dancing. By this time, I grew to love myself and began to see how hula affected my emotional well-being and life as a whole. Our participation in the 2016 Aha Mele Hawaiian Festival in Puyallup, WA was the game changer for me. This event was eye-opening and helped me see how much my hula had a positive impact on our local Hawaiian community. I remember performing my very first solo hula at the 2018 Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival at the Seattle Center Armory Stage.

I have taken workshops from Kumu Hula Maelia Lobenstein-Carter (Miss Aloha Hula 1993), Hinaleimoana "Kumu Hina" Wong-Kalu and Pua Case. Aside from taking those workshops, I have had the privilege of growing up with other Kumu and Kumu Hula as family and spending time with their Halau - Uncle George Na`ope, Aunty Gina Shimomura, Uncle Kalani Hiapo, Uncle Roderick Escolta, Aunty Claire Cortez, Aunty Manu Lono, Auntie Kapua Quenga, Aunty Kaui Dalire and Uncle Kamaile Hamada.

I began training as an Alaka`i in 2021 where I am learning to teach my own classes. I am currently teaching Kaikamahine, Keiki Kane and Kupuna in our Kent and Puyallup locations. I also accompany Mom and assist with classes in other locations when needed. I still continue to help with costume making and Halau clothing/gear between dancing and teaching, which sometimes is a full-time job that I get to enjoy while feeling productive. I look forward to continue learning more about my culture, the history of hula, `Olelo Hawai`i and following my path in hula.

Las Vegas branch

Alakaʻi in training, Kamalani Marticio

Aloha no kakou! I kou inoa e Kamalani Marticio. I am the Alaka`i for Hālau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe.

I have been surrounded by hula since I was born. When I was 2 I started dancing for my mom’s hālau performing Tahitian at shows. It wasn’t until I was at the age of 6 when I really started to dance hula. I loved the dancing but quickly became interested in the musical aspect of the art such as playing the instruments and singing. I would watch Mākaha Sons concerts and try to play the ukulele and sing with them. From that I would sing for the keiki class at some of our shows. I continued to dance until about the age of 10. I put a pause on hula to switch my focus towards sports. After over 10 years of not dancing I decided to get involved again to learn more about hula and my culture. Even though I haven’t danced in a decade I never really “left” hula. I was raised in a hula family/community so even in my short time dancing I’ve always been able to learn. I still attended all events my mom’s hālau was involved in, including practice, shows, and competitions. At a younger age I also participated in some workshops and got the opportunity to learn from other Kumu Hula such as Aunty Anela Lemanu.

In early summer of 2015 I came back to dancing performing for my grandmother’s 80th birthday. In late summer of 2015 the hālau evolved in to Hālau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe. I started to get more involved with the group around December- January.

I love the Hawaiian culture and everything it represents. I’m always interested in learning more about it and other Polynesian dances. The major influences in my hula career have been my mother- Kumu Hula Mokihana Melendez, my Granny- Adelina Marticio because of her involvement in the community as well as my late Grandpa- John Marticio Sr. I love the concept of The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival and how we as a people and culture have been able to keep the tradition and dancing alive even thru all the colonization.

I’m excited to pass down the things I’ve learned to the keiki. I’m hoping they can carry on my knowledge and I also hope to learn from them as well.

In December 2020, I made the decision to move to Las Vegas, NV. I ventured out on my own to gain a stronger sense of independence, learn more about myself and see what this amazing city has to offer. Working in the Hospitality industry, I have been able to meet people visiting our city and also many that have lived here their whole lives. I'm excited to perpetuate my culture through hula and share my Aloha with the community. I am proud to be a part of the opening of our 5th branch of Halau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe. 

Alakaʻi in training, Suzanne-Marie No`eau Mina

Aloha! My name is Suzanne-Marie No`eau Mina. I am Ho`opa`a for Halau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe. When I was 3yrs old I started dancing hula in the living room of a lady my Mom met. I was too young to pronounce her name and only called her Aunty. I may not remember her name, but I do remember that my first mele was "The Little Grass Shack". Little did I know that Aunty introduced me to my roots and a culture that I would grow to fall in love with.

From the age of 4-10yrs I tried other styles of performing/cultural arts from Tae Kwon Do, tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, acrobatics, modeling, acting, singing and pageantry. I learned that none of these arts came as a natural ability. When I moved to Seattle, WA, I danced with Ke Liko A`e O Lei Lehua under the Late Kumu, Aunty Claire Cortez until 1996. After disciplined practice, several tears and a lot of determination, hula became second nature. During my time with Aunty Claire, I was exposed to my very 1st Hula Competition in Canada and a variety of Polynesian dances including Tahitian, Maori and Samoan.

In 1996, Ka Lei Mokihana No Ke Akua was born under Na Kumu Hula Candace Kananiokamokihana Melendez and Regina Kuananiakua Shimomura. I have the distinct honor of being one of the original 5 Haumana when Halau opened doors. We were the smallest Halau to perform and compete in Hula Competitions in our area. One thing that we have always been taught is that it's not about the quantity, it's the quality. We learned Ho`opa`a, costume making, lei making and about several different methods of creating adornments. As part of our standard curriculum we learn how to research our mele, the history behind the pieces of our costumes (the era in which the mele was written, type of costume, different fabric, colors we wore, pua that we used, hairstyles, whether we used shoes or not).

In 1998, we entered the 1st Annual George Na`ope Northwest Invitational Hula Festival (we placed 2nd - Na`opio Group Kahiko, 3rd - Na`opio Group `Auana, 1st - Kaikamahine Group Kahiko, 1st Kaikamahina Group `Auana, 2nd - Kaikamahine Soloist and Overall - Kaikamahine Group). Kumu Hula Mokihana asked me to compete as the Na`opio Soloist in the 2001 George Na`ope Northwest Invitational Hula Festival where I placed 3rd in my category. While I received training as a Soloist, I also taught Kaikamahine for this competition as well as the Mai Kahiki Mai Hula, Oli and Falsetto Competition. Sadly, I was unable to compete in the Mai Kahiki Mai Hula, Oli and Falsetto Competition as I was in a horrible car accident on my way to competition. Although, I was unable to participate, all of the Kaikamahine groups that I instructed, went on to receive top honors/overall awards in both competitions. Doctors told me it would be a long time for my injuries to heal and to be able to dance again, so I was forced to take a break from hula.

My husband, Jermaine Ku`uipo and I have 3 Kamali`i: Poina`ole, Mahina and Kawehi. All 3 of our Kamali`i have danced hula along with my husband and myself. I have learned many life lessons from hula and a lot of these lessons have helped shaped me into the person I am today. One thing Kumu Hula Mokihana has instilled in me throughout the years is that "Hula will always be here for me." This lesson will resonate with me as I have always had the support of Halau and the hula community - Because of this, I have been able to take time off from hula when I needed it most (for growing my family, focusing on my career or just personal growth).

Aside from studying under Kumu Hula Mokihana and Aunty Claire, I have also taken workshops taught by several other Kumu Hula - The Late George Na`ope, the Late Kathy Kapua Templeton, Manuiki Lono, Etua Lopez, Makanaokalani Porter, Tony Conjugacion, Gloria Napualani Fujii, Moodette Ka`apana, Kuulei Gumapak, Kamaile Hamada, Kaui Dalire and Iwalani Christian.

Fast forward to 2021 - Our family made the biggest decision of our lives thus far. We left our comfort zone in WA State and relocated to Las Vegas, NV. We purchased our very first home and have begun to re-plant our roots in the beautiful Southwest. I am humbled and honored to be involved in our 5th branch of Halau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe. Imua!

Hālau Registrar, Lourdes Kaleinani Ballena

Aloha. I’m Lourdes Kaleinani Ballena. I’ve been part of Halau Hula Ka Lei Mokihana I Ka Ua Noe for 5 years as a hula mom and more recently as the official open enrollment registrar. 

We first joined Ka Lei Mokihana when my daughter Kalei started to show interest in learning more about her roots. Not​ only does Kumu teach you hula she also teaches you the meaning of the dance so that as a dancer you have a better understanding and can put your feelings into it. 

We now have a hula ohana that we look forward to seeing every practice. Ohana is what this halau is all about. Kumu teaches the importance of family whether you're a dancer or a parent you are part of the hula ohana. One thing that Kumu does not tolerate is excuses. From experience it teaches my daughter responsibility.

bottom of page