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     What is Hula?  


  • Cultural dance system that nurtures & sustains Hawaiian people & visitors

  • Recalls collective history & identity of Hawaiʻiʻs indigenous inhabitants

  • Dance form accompanied by chant (oli) or song (mele), with or without musical or rhythmic accompaniment

  • Method of oral & visual record of cultural history & legends for centuries

  • Portrays meaning & intent of the words in a visual dance form; complex art form.  Many hand motions used to represent words in a song or chant.  Hand movements can signify aspects of nature, such as the swaying of a tree in the breeze or a wave in the ocean, or a feeling or emotion, such as fondness or yearning.

  • Ancient hula, performed before Western encounters with Hawaiʻi, may be referred to as hula kahiko; accompanied by chant & traditional implements.  Serves are both worship & entertainment.

  • Evolved under Western influence in the 19th & 20th centuries; called ʻauana ("to wander" or "drift"); accompanied by song & Western-influenced musical instruments (guitar, ʻukulele, double bass, & piano, for examples.)

  • Hula practitioners are adorned with lei & florals, & dance to beautiful Hawaiian music.

How is it Taught?


  • Taught in schools or gatherings called hālau.

  • Teacher of hula is kumu hula, where kumu means source of knowledge, or literally speaking, a teacher. 


  • Many distinctions between hula studios where hula is taught by an instructor, & traditional hula hālau, under the direction of a kumu hula (or a kumu in training under the supervision of a kumu hula).


  • Hierarchy in hula schools - including but not limited to the kumu (teacher), alaka'i (leader), kokua (helpers), & then the 'olapa (dancers) or haumana (students)

  • ʻuniki means to complete an intense course of studies under care & guidance of a kumu with full rights, & to pass from one level to the next in a manner determined by the kumu.


  • Many thousands of people around the world study Hula; especially true in Hawai'i, where keiki (kids) as young as 2-3 years of age are learning how to hula.

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