Thursday, February 14, 2013

Do You Hula?

On a recent trip to Hawaii I was treated to a hula performance in the lobby of the hotel. I was taken by the simple graciousness of the movement in the older dancers and the delicate intensity in the younger students. I snapped some pictures and then wanted to find out more. 

Turns out there are two styles of hula: ancient hula called "kahiko" accompanied by chant and traditional instrument and "auana" a more modern type, which is what I saw, that developed in the 19th century onward incorporating western instruments in addition to traditional Hawaiian instruments like the ukelele. 

Kuhi no ka lima, hele no ka maka.
Where the hands move, there let the eyes follow.
A rule in hula.
                                                Pukui: 1868-201

With no written language, the ancient Hawaiians recorded their histories, genealogies, legends, and the phenomena of their gods through the creation and memorization of chants (oli) dances that eventually came to be called hula.

Considered a narrative movement, hula embraces the meanings of the chants while releasing the grace and spirit of the dancer.  The essence of hula is to go inward, to touch one’s center.  Dancers are especially aware of their feet touching the earth, and of the earth itself, which is felt to be the source of the power of the dance.

Hula dancers are trained by a hula master, or kumu hula, in a school called a hālau. Even the youngest students showed great knowledge and presence. 

 All information on hula from

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