Hula dancing is a beautiful and artistic dance that this indigenous to Hawaiian culture.
Hawaiian’s use stories as a way of passing on and teaching the customs and traditions of their culture; and hula dancing is one of the way that these stories are told.
The dance is usually accompanied by music and / or a chant (melee), and an entire story can be told through the movements of the dance and it’s accompanying audio.
Origin & History
The hula dance can be traced back to the Polynesians who settled in the Hawaiian Islands around the third century. At this time they used hula dance to worship and appease their gods.
Some believe that the volcano goddess Pele was bored one day and her little sister Hi’iaka performed the dance for her. While other myths say that Pele created the dance to celebrate her escape from her older sister.
Regardless of which of these myths is true, it is clear that the original hula dance was a tribute to the gods of the ancient Hawaiians.
Traditional vs. Modern Instruments
Traditionally the instruments used for the music of the hula dance were very simple. They included beaded teeth which rattled, gourds beat on as drums, and even rocks pounded together. Today however many stringed instruments such as the guitar, ukulele, and the double bass have been adopted to create the music.
Males & Females
Today, most depictions of hula performances is that that they are performed by women; but traditionally men and females are allowed to participate in hula dancing.
There is one exception to the rule however, the musical accompaniment and chants are traditionally only performed by men.
Chant & Music
The original hula dance placed the emphasis on the chant (melee) and traditionally it was in the ancient Polynesian language.
As hula dancing has evolved over the years the emphasis today is much more on the dance. Every movement of the body and the hands has a meaning and thus the story is told through these movements.
Despite this shift the melee is vital to the performance of a hula dance as it’s the element that tells the story.
Ancient hula dancer’s costumes were simple – the men wore loincloths, the women wore very short skirts and their bodies were decorated with flowery leis.
Today however the costumes incorporate very long skirts, tops, and more decoration to create a more modest look.
Did you know?!
Once upon a time Hula dancing was a banned ritual
In The early 1800s missionaries converted many of the Hawaiian royalty to Christianity. They denounced the hula dance as a pagan ritual and encouraged it’s banning. However, hula dancing could not be destroyed, for it was practiced in secret until its reemergence under King David Kalakaua.
There’ll be heaps of opportunities to watch a traditional Hula performance at Global this year, and even the odd chance to try your hand at it.
About the Author
Becca is an avid traveller, a trained copywriter and one of Australia’s leading video marketers. As a creative content producer she’s pumped to be engaging, entertaining and intriguing the FCTG nations with written and visual communications in the run up to Global.