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Updated: Feb 12, 2022

Hula is an ancient dance form that is distinctively from Hawai. Traditionally, hula played a magnificent to preserve and perpetuate the stories, history, culture, and traditions of Hawaii. A hula dancer expresses the meaning or story behind a particular chant or song visually.

The dance is performed by sitting (noho dance) or standing (luna dance), with oscillating gestures to instruments and the chants

Hawaiian hula consists of two types of dance.

  • Hula kahiko (ancient hula)

  • Hula ‘auana (modern hula)

Hula kahiko is considered as an extension of a ceremony with some chants known as ‘Oli’ which are the compositions from generations ago followed by percussion instruments. To call hula “ancient” improperly implies that the art is static. Rather, hula kahiko has strong roots in the past and continues to grow in modern Hawaii. The dance form exhibits a less elaborate musical style and is accompanied by traditional instruments such as the calabash, seed-filled gourds, split bamboo sticks, stones used as castanets, and pahu drums.

Hula auana is an informal form of hula which is performed without ceremony. In the 20th-century new hula begin to appear in this less formal style. Stringed instruments like guitar, bass, steel guitar, and the ukulele and songs based on Western models, are used to narrate stories.

Traditional female dancers wore skirts of raffia, fresh-cut ti leaves, or bright cellophane and decorations such as necklaces, bracelets, anklets and other accessories

The dancing hula is a very complex art form that includes hand motions that express the lyrics of the chants or the song. For example, the swaying of a tree in the breeze or a wave in the ocean, or a feeling or emotion, such as fondness or yearning. The foot and hip steps include the kaholo, kaʻo, kawelu, hela, ʻuwehe, and ʻami.

Hula is usually performed for spontaneous daily amusement or family feasts that were attended with no particular ceremony which is a source of entertainment for chiefs who were anxious about affairs. Sacred hula, celebrating Hawaiian gods, were also danced. All these performances were traditionally believed that must be completed without error (which would be both unlucky and disrespectful). Visiting chiefs from other domains would also be honored with hula performances. This courtesy was often extended to important Western visitors.

If you happen upon a hula performance as part of a ceremony, note that it may not be intended as a public performance. Maintaining a respectful distance being silent refraining from taking photos or video, following some other requests during the hula performance is considered as a part of the sanctity of the ceremony

The following video opens a window to this amazing and sensuous dance form :-


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