The History of Hula Dancing
June 29, 2011 · Print This Article
Hula is a dance form accompanied by chant or song. It was developed in the Hawaiian Islands by the Polynesians who originally settled there. The chant or song is called a mele. The hula dramatizes or comments on the mele.
There are many styles of hula. They are commonly divided into two broad categories: Ancient hula, as performed before Western encounters with Hawaii, is called kahiko. It is accompanied by chant and traditional instruments. Hula as it evolved under Western influence, in the 19th and 20th centuries, is called auana. It is accompanied by song and Western-influenced musical instruments such as the guitar, the ukulele, and the double bass.
Terminology for two main additional categories is beginning to enter the hula lexicon: “Monarchy” includes many hula which were composed and choreographed during the 19th century. During that time the influx of Western culture created significant changes in the formal Hawaiian arts, including hula. “Ai Kahiko“, meaning “in the ancient style” are those hula written in the 20th and 21st centuries that follow the stylistic protocols of the ancient hula kahiko.
Hula is taught in schools called halau. The teacher of hula is the kumu hula, where kumu means source of knowledge. Hula dancing is a complex art form, and there are many hand motions used to signify aspects of nature, such as the basic Hula and Coconut Tree motions, or the basic leg steps, such as the Kaholo, Ka’o, and Ami.
There are other dances that come from other Polynesian islands such as Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga and Aotearoa (New Zealand); however, the hula is unique to the Hawaiian Islands.
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