The historic origins of the hula are as complex and graceful as the dance itself. The mythical stories vary and are specific to each island. Goddess Laka gave birth to the hula in Ka’ana on the island of Molokai where her remains are also buried. On the Big Island, legendary goddess Pele ordered her sisters to dance for her, and only Hi’iaka stepped forward to perform. Another tells of fiery Pele fleeing from her sister, Namakaokaha’i (the goddess of the oceans) and finding refuge on the isle of Hawaii. To express her gratitude of being far away from water, Pele danced a hula.
As fascinating as the legends are, the more likely beginnings of the art of the hula were a form of communication between the Hawaiian people. A means of sharing stories between its people and generations, as well as in celebration and entertainment.
My Nanny was a Kumu Hula or hula teacher and I grew up surrounded by the serenades of the ukulele, the fragrance of flower leis, and swaying ti leaf skirts. It was a whirlwind experience tagging along with my Nanny from one performance to the next, I felt like a superstar roadie. I didn’t have the grace required to dance, but I was grateful to be a helper and a robust applauder from the audience.
Next to surfing, hula is probably the most global Hawaii tradition with schools throughout North America, Japan, Finland, and the Dominican Republic.
To an untrained eye, all Polynesian performances look like the hula; however the Samoan, Tahitian, Maori, and Hawaiian cultural dances are quite distinct in movement, motions, and implements. My best recommendation to experience all of the cultures in one place would be a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie on the island of Oahu.
I mentioned earlier that I didn’t have the grace required to dance, but it doesn’t stop me from moving my hips during family gatherings!
Enjoy a performance from the dancers of “Kuhai Halau O Kahalepuna Pa Olapa Kahiko” as they tell the story of famous warrior, Pekeku.
About L.P. “Neenz” Faleafine
Bred, born, and raised in Hawaii, L.P. “Neenz” Faleafine is the Founder of social media marketing company, Pono Media. Often described as an Ambassador of Aloha, Neenz shares the traditions, values, and culture of Hawaii as the Executive Editor of Hawaii Traditions. She began her online career with Nononina, Inc. as a writer for their citizen journalism site, Truemors and continues to serve as their Chief Evangelist of leading news aggregation site, Alltop.