Demystifying Hula: The Evolution Of Hawaiian Dance
Do you know the difference between the hula that we know today and the more traditional hula that was originally practiced on the islands of Hawaii? In an
infographic recently created by the Fairmont Kea Lani and Fairmont Orchid, you can see just how much the hula has changed over the years, from dance wear to music.
Where does hula come from?
Another legend states that the volcano goddess, Peele, found a home on the island of Hawaii whilst trying to run away from her sister Namakaokaha’l, the goddess of the oceans, and danced the hula in celebration of her victory.
What does hula symbolize?
Meles are songs of worship, sung while dancers perform to express the chant.
Hula is also deeply rooted in the art of storytelling. Specific chants and moves are used to tell the stories of ancestors and to pass on ancient customs.
How has hula changed?
Traditional hula (hula kahiko) dancewear includes a pa'u (wrapped skirt) for women and malo (loincloth) for men. Both men and women dancers wear necklaces and bracelets made from plants, shells, and animal teeth.
Beginning in the 18th century, Western influence has led to a new style of dance, hula auana. Modern dancers may wear a grass skirt or mu'umu'u (a long, loose gown).
Traditional leis were given as offerings and we not to be worn after the completion of the dance.
In modern hula auana, leis are commonly worn after the dance and are given as gifts.
The music has evolved too.
Uli'uli - small gourd instruments filled with pebbles - are commonly seen in traditional hula dances. Kala'au (rhythm sticks) and Ili'ili (small flat river rocks) are struck together as percussion instruments.
Ukulele are commonly used in modern hula auana, as are several other types of guitar and stringed instruments. Drums are used to help maintain rhythm.
Many of the traditional dance steps are used in both hula kahiko and hula auana.
In addition to these six base moves, certain hand gestures are used to visually demonstrate different words or scenes. However, these can vary between choreographers and the halau (hula school) where they train. These five gestures below are common amongst many hula styles.
Modern hula is typically quicker in tempo, as it is often performed for an audience at a luau. More traditional dances emphasize slower but exact movements.
Hand gestures are important to both styles of dance; however, modern hula auana relies more on hand gestures to demonstrate modern activities that do not have traditional names.
Hawaiian hula is often confused with the traditional dances of other Pacific Islands.
No matter what style you’re observing, the hula is firmly engrained into the Hawaiian culture and is a must see if you do visit The Aloha State. Mahalo!
Check Heather Green’s complete Demystifying Hula infographic here.
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