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For Immediate Release


– Isa‘ako Milford, 10, Wins Junior Division (ages 6-11) –
– Hale Motu‘apuaka, 16, Wins Intermediate Division (ages 12-17) –

MAY 14, 2016, Lā‘ie, Hawai‘i – The Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) established the World Fireknife Championships 24 years ago, in part, to see this proud Samoan cultural tradition perpetuated by future generations.
Based on the stellar performances Friday night (May 13) by 17 talented – and young – fireknife dancers, competitive fireknife dancing has a strong and vibrant future for many years to come.

Youth ruled the stage at the World Fireknife Championships, as seven boys in the Junior Division (ages 6-11), and ten competitors, including one girl, in the Intermediate Division (ages 12-17), wowed a sold-out crowd at the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Hale Aloha Theatre.

Fireknife dancing draws its roots from the Samoan ailao, a warrior’s knife dance, performed before battle with the nifo oti, or “tooth of death.” All of the up-and-coming fireknife dancers, even the youngest, lived up to the tradition of that honor, seizing the night with a combination of creativity, fearlessness and skill that belied their youth.

Wearing a traditional Samoan lavalava and backed by eight Polynesian drummers, their routines had them spinning one, two, and for a couple, three flaming fireknives above their head, behind their back, between their legs, and tossing them high above the stage. The youngsters showed bravery and confidence by sliding the burning ends over their torso, grabbing them with bare hands, and placing them onto their mouth.

Winning the Junior Division was Isa‘ako Milford, age 10, of Lā‘ie, HI, with Hale Motu‘apuaka, age 16, of ‘Aiea, HI, winning the Intermediate Division for the third straight year. All Junior Division competitors received prize packages with the top three presented special fireknife- designed trophies.

Results: Junior Division (ages 6-11)
1st Place: Isa‘ako Milford, 10, Lā‘ie, HI
2nd Place: Mose Lilo, 8, ‘Ewa Beach, HI
3rd Place: Matagi Lilo, 10, ‘Ewa Beach, HI

Results: Intermediate Division (ages 12-17)
1st Place: Hale Motu‘apuaka, 16, ‘Aiea, HI
2nd Place: Jeralee Galeai (Female), 15, Lā‘ie, HI
3rd Place: Hunter Nery, 15, Waialua, HI

Senior Division Semi-Finals
In the elite Senior Division (age 18 and older) the six semi-finalists, advancing from Thursday night’s (May 12) opening round of 18 competitors, also took to the stage Friday night to determine the three finalists who will vie to be the 2016 World Fireknife Champion.

After an intense, spellbinding competition that showed why they are among the best in the world, the three fireknife dancers to compete in the finals are:

Mikaele Oloa, Waialua, HI
Falaniko Penesa, Samoa
Matuni Vaiaoga, Orlando, FL

They will square off for this year’s championship on Saturday night (May 14) during intermission of the PCC’s award-winning Hā: Breath of Life evening show in the Pacific Theater.

The World Fireknife Championships is the main attraction of the PCC’s We Are Samoa Festival, Hawai‘i’s largest annual Samoan cultural celebration. The other featured event is the High School Samoan Cultural Arts Festival on Saturday morning (May 14, 9:00 a.m.) in which Hawai‘i students of Polynesian ancestry from five high schools will compete in traditional Samoan practices and life skills.

For more information about the World Fireknife Championships, please visit www.worldfireknife.com. For information or to make reservations at the PCC, please visit www.polynesia.com or call (800) 367-7060. In Hawai‘i, call 293-3333.