Hawaiian Hula Dance

Hula is the storytelling dance of the Hawaiian Islands and it’s people.

Hula is a Polynesian dance form accompanied by chant or song (oli or mele). Hula was developed in the islands of Hawai’i by the Polynesian voyagers who originally settled there, Kanaka Maoli.

The hula dramatizes or portrays the words of the oli or mele in a visual dance form. It visually displays the story that is being told. Hula can be performed by both kāne and wāhine, (men and women). There are several sub-styles of hula which fall under kahiko and ʻauana, the two main categories of the dance.

Ancient hula, as performed before Western encounters with Hawaiʻi, is called kahiko, hula kahiko. Kahiko is accompanied by chant and traditional implements such as pahu (drum), ipu (gourd) or ipu heke (double gourd). Other implements used to visually express the story being told are pu’ili (bamboo sticks), ‘uli’uli (small gourd that rattles, adorned with feathers), & ‘ili’ili (small river rocks).

Hula, as it evolved under Western influence in the 19th and 20th centuries, is called ʻauana, hula ʻauana. The modern, elegant ʻauana dance is accompanied by song and Western-influenced musical instruments such as the guitar, the ʻukulele, and the double bass.

Missionaries deemed hula a pagan ritual and persuaded Queen Ka’ahumanu to convert religions, banning public hula in 1830. King David Kalākaua initiated the resurgence of hula during his royalty reign.