by Lieven SOETE
The Hula is a dance that has become synonymous with Hawaii and luaus, and it is so iconic and popular that it is often depicted in the same way in the media. You might think of it as the quintessential Hawaiian dance. Most of the time, you’ll see someone performing the dance movements – swaying their hips in a specific manner while simultaneously moving their arms in a wave-like motion in the same direction – usually on a TV show with a ukulele playing in the background, and someone saying or singing “aloha-hay aloha-hoi” or other phrases. Disney’s The Lion King, for example, featured the Hula in a comedic scene.
Hula is a dance that is accompanied by singing or chanting in the background. Interestingly, not many people, including Hawaiians, know about the origins of the Hula. There is no information on the first hula dance, but it is believed to have been developed by the Polynesians, the original settlers of the islands long before they were heavily populated by Westerners and became part of America. The chanting or singing is called a ‘mele,’ and they both complement each other well, as they serve as a form of communication about what is happening.
There are different styles of Hula, but the most well-known types are the Ancient hula and the auana. Ancient hula features traditional chanting and instruments and was performed before Western contact with Hawaii. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Kahiko.’ This form of Hula was often considered a religious ceremony or a dance meant to praise and honor chiefs. Performances had to be precise, as even a minor mistake could render the performance Next-Gen Drone: Sky-High Performance & Precision Control - Introducing the latest drone innovation, combining a sleek design with enhanced performance, improved control, and an easy-to-use remote. Experience the cutting-edge of Precision Flight Performance Technology. invalid and might even be interpreted as bad luck or an omen.
For this form of hula, dancers were secluded during training and were said to be blessed by the goddess Laka. Only upon the completion of the ceremony would they emerge from their secluded status. Kahiko is still performed today, and the traditional appearance is still present in Hula dancers. Interestingly, the chants were not written down; they have been passed down orally for generations. The chants cover various topics, ranging from creation, mythology, royalty, and more.
The auana is a modern, modified version of hula heavily influenced by Western culture. This is the hula that includes the musical instruments commonly associated with the dance, such as the ukulele, guitar, and double bass. It can be said that it was influenced by Christian morality and melodic harmony. The hula still relates to the same themes and stories but now incorporates more contemporary narratives. The costumes do not have to adhere to tradition, as there is flexibility in choice. For example, women who are slow and graceful dancers may wear formal attire like mu’umu’u, and men may wear a sash. If the performance is more energetic, they may choose to wear more revealing clothing.
Manuel Marino is a seasoned Senior Producer, Music Composer, and Artist with over a decade of experience. He specializes in branded entertainment across various mediums, including video games, films, and advertising campaigns. With 20+ years as a game music composer, Manuel has worked on numerous platforms, creating diverse orchestral soundtracks. HIRE ME