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Hula

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Hula in the Hawaiian Islands

On its surface, hula is the storytelling dance of the Hawaiian Islands. As with all of Hawaiian culture, when you are fortunate enough to learn more about it, much deeper, more powerful and empowering truths may be revealed. Hula can be paired with chants or contemporary music, slow and sentimental in tempo or fast and energetic. But no matter its style, it is all part of a cultural practice of sharing a trove of stories that connect dancers and audiences to the foundation of Hawaiian ancestral knowledge. Hula animates history, genealogy, prophecy, and the tales of those who came before.

For dancers who connect more deeply through their hula traditions, dance is just one part of the practice, which often involves stewardship of the environment. For example, there may be a reciprocal relationship where dancers care for the forests, which in turn provide for them, including ferns, maile and other materials to make lei and garb that enliven the performance. Practices differ from halau (hula school) to halau, but they all aim to create a tangible, personal connection between the dancer, the stories he or she is dancing about, and the legendary origins of hula itself.

Hula, A Continuing Tradition

Hula has many roots, with various traditions offering different origins of the art – reflecting the beauty of the Hawaiian respect for multiple perspectives in a way that does not need to be mutually exclusive.

Two overarching styles of hula are hula kahiko (ancient hula) and hula auana (modern hula). To simply categorize the two as old and new, however, minimizes the differences between the two and overlooks important distinctions.

Hula kahiko is traditionally performed as part of or as an extension of a ceremony, set to an oli (chant) and accompanied by percussion instruments. While many of the oli we hear along with hula kahiko are compositions from generations ago, there are also new oli and accompanying hula composed today. 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.

Hula auana is less formal hula, performed without ceremony. Around the turn of the 20th century, more new hula began to emerge in this less formal style. A story is told with the accompaniment of song and stringed instruments such as guitar, bass, steel guitar and ukulele.

Enjoy Hula Respectfully

Hula dancers train for years with the physical intensity of professional athletes and the academic rigor of doctoral students under the tutelage of a kumu hula (hula teacher) before performing in public, so it is important to enjoy a performance respectfully.

If you happen upon a hula performance as part of a ceremony, note that it may not be intended as a public performance. You may be asked to keep a respectful distance, be silent, refrain from taking photos or video, or follow some other request to maintain the sanctity of the ceremony. Even if you are not asked to do so, it is appropriate to maintain a respectful distance.

Hula, A Pacific Dance Tradition

Though it is one of many Pacific dance traditions, hula is distinctively Hawaiian. Hula is often showcased alongside the Samoan fire dance, Tahitian otea, and Maori haka, particularly in luau shows in Hawaii. But hula should not be confused with those traditions from other lands.

Find More Information About Hula

Hula on Kauai

Read more about hula on Kauai.

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Hula on Oahu

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Hula on Molokai

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Hula on Maui

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Hula on the Island of Hawaii

Read more about hula on the island of Hawaii

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Hula Terminology

Kahiko: ancient, long ago.

Auana: to wander, drift, go from place to place.

Halau Hula: Hula School

Kumu Hula: Hula Teacher

Hoomakaukau: To prepare, make ready. 
Often used by the kumu hula (hula teacher) before the hula performance has begun to signal the halau to get ready.  

Ae: yes; to say yes.
The halau’s response to the kumu hula, letting him/her know they are ready to begin. 

Pa: a sound; to sound; beat; signal to begin a dance

Haina: the two or more last verses of a song.
You may hear this term used by the halau in the middle of the performance. This means the halau is nearing the end of the song, the end of the story. 

See Hula Performed at a Luau

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Ahaaina Luau
Oahu
Ahaaina Luau
2259 Kalakaua Ave.
Honolulu, HI 96815
Summary

Waikiki’s only oceanfront dinner show is a culinary and sensory celebration, commemorating Hawaiian culture and transforming the traditional island experience in grand Royal Hawaiian style. The Royal Hawaiian’s ‘Aha‘aina is a lavish epicurean journey through time.

Websites
Kauai
Grand Hyatt Kauai Luau
1571 Poipu Rd
Koloa, HI 96756
Summary

Experience Hawaiian history, culture and tradition through vibrant song and dance depicting extraordinary voyages throughout the South Pacific. Engage in interactive cultural activities and feast on fresh island delicacies. Celebrate the spirit of adventure, romance and culture of these islands.

Websites
Kauai
Aulii Luau
Sheraton Kauai Resort
2440 Hoonani Rd
Koloa, HI 96756
Summary

Enjoy an exquisite gathering with an authentic experience of old Hawai'i. As the sun sets, treasure this mesmerizing setting as you indulge in island culinary treats with the Pacific Ocean as the backdrop. Watch as music and dance bring the story of Polynesia to life.

Websites
Hawaii
Island Breeze Luau
75-5660 Palani Road
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

Big Island's most popular luau at the Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. Located on the historical grounds of Ahu Ena Heiau on Kamakahonu Bay. Includes the arrival of the Royal Court by canoe, an imu ceremony, a buffet dinner, open bar and a spectacular Polynesian review.

Websites
Hawaii
Sunset Luau
69-275 Waikoloa Beach Drive
Kamuela, HI 96743-9763
Summary

The sound of a conch shell welcomes you to the Sunset Luau! A starlit Kona sky, an array of delectable Hawaiian dishes, and a journey through the islands of Polynesia in traditional music and dance create an unforgettable evening.

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