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HULA DANCING: A sacred ritual that evolved into commercial entertainment

Hula is a traditional Hawaiian dance accompanied by Hawaiian music or singing. Most of us have seen images of sun-kissed hula dancers swaying their hips in grass skirts, but do you know about the origins of this art form? Legend has it that hula began when Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes, wanted her sisters to entertain her with song and dance. Nowadays, it is a popular form of entertainment for tourists at luaus and is usually performed by women. However, it originally served to preserve and spread Hawaiian legend, history and culture, and was performed by women and men alike. Ancient Hawaiians had no written language so they memorized their stories through chants (oli) and dances (hula). Traditionally, Hawaiians danced hula to celebrate their roots and give thanks for the aina (land) around them. They told tales of migration, myth, love, grief and exploration. Hula was considered a narrative form, a way to celebrate nature, and to unite body, mind and soul with all creation. Today, hula features at blessings and celebrations, as well as other religious events and church services. There are many different types of hula; Auana is a modern style with western music, whereas Kahiko incorporates more traditional chants, percussion and costumes. When missionaries landed in Hawaii at the beginning of the 19th century, islanders were discouraged from their traditional practices and hula was forced underground. It was revived by King David Kalakaua, the last King of Hawaii, along with other native traditions, at the end of the 19th century. Today, the largest hula event is the Merrie Monarch Festival. This annual week-long festival, which honours King Kalakaua’s legacy, includes hula competitions, a Hawaiian arts fair, and a grand parade.
Apr 2, 2015
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