The hula is a dance and a ceremony that originated with Hawaii’s first settlers. Though there are other dances in Polynesia that are similar to the Hula, they are distinct enough to claim that the Hula originated in Hawaii.
Kahiko is the name of the first or traditional hula. It’s actually a religious dance performed to honor the Hawaiian gods. It was primarily accompanied percussion instruments such as gourd drums, coconuts, and castanets made of gourds. Kahiko is accompanied chanting. Though most people associate the hula with the ukulele, it is only used in modern hula dance.
As a celebration or act of devotion to the gods, Kahiko was taken very seriously. It was thought that if the dance was performed incorrectly, it would either elicit the wrath of the honored god or be invalidated errors. As a result, each Kahiko hula dance movement is very deliberate and requires a great deal of skill to perform.
A wrapped skirt for women and a loincloth for men are traditional costumes for the Kahiko hula dance. The hula was declared sinful missionaries visiting the islands because both women and men left their chests bare. This aspect, however, was not considered sinful or shameful in Hawaiian religion, but rather a part of the traditional way of performing Kahiko.
The modern hula is known as hula ‘auana. This type of dance could be derived from religious observance dances. Many of them, however, have been significantly updated and can be used to tell stories about Hawaiian gods and legends. The ukulele, steel guitars, and bass are frequently used to accompany the dancers in addition to percussion instruments. Chants are uncommon, but singing is widespread.
The costuming can be quite varied. Wrapped skirts, grass skirts, and elegant Hawaiian dresses are all options for dancing. In ‘auana, however, women rarely dance with their chests exposed. At luaus or special feasts, the modern hula can be seen. Guests visiting Hawaii can also take classes or participate in the dance.
The gracefulness of the movements often astounds those unfamiliar with the hula. The sway of the hips is the most noticeable, but arm movements are also lovely and expressive. Male dances are very athletic, with acrobatic moves taking precedence over grace.
The hula has gained popularity in all 50 states, and many recreation centers now offer hula classes. Private dance schools and local colleges may also offer hula ‘auana classes. Many people enjoy these classes and find that the precision required in movements is a great way to stay in shape.