Hawaii Hula Company

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Pele- Goddess of Fire

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Hula dancersEvery Hula chant or song tells a story. Luckily, a Hula Dancer can portray the story with his/her hands, so you don’t need to be fluent in the Hawaiian language to understand the stories. A Hula Dancer can make you feel like you’re apart of the story through expressions and movements.

There are many Hawaiian chants inviting you to follow the adventures of Pele, the goddess of fire. Until this day, volcanic eruptions on Hawaii Island are attributed to Pele longing to be with her loved one. Some of the most popular Pele legends involve Pele and her lover Lohiau, a chief of Kaua`i, and Pele’s youngest and favorite sister, Hi`iaka.

Hula GirlsPele is said to be the most visible of the Hawaiian gods/goddesses as she dwells in the craters of the active Kilauea Volcano. The legends of Pele represent her as a very passionate and volatile goddess. She has the ability to create, as well as destroy land.

Hula AuanaThe spirit of Madame Pele is highly respected by natives of Hawaii. There are modern day stories of people believing to spot Pele. One story says drivers have seen an old woman dressed in all white on the roads of Kilauea National Park on Hawaii Island. The woman is said to be accompanied by a small dog. After drivers pick her up, they say the backseat is empty when they look back in the mirror. Locals also try to spread awareness about the importance of showing respect when visiting the lava fields. People of Hawai`i frown upon taking lava rocks from the volcanoes. There was a very recent story in 2016 of an American family who took handfuls of lava rocks and black sand from the Big Island. After feeling “cursed” they contacted the local airlines they flew with and had the stolen items retuned to Madame Pele.

Kumu Hula (teachers) often take their haumana (students) to visit places which their mele (songs) and chants come from. The more a dancer understands what they’re dancing about, the better they can express it. The legends of Hawaii’s gods and goddesses are fascinating, and can be best experienced through the art of Hula.

Perpetuating the Hula

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hula dancersWhat may be considered the most prestigious hula event of the year, The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, will be occurring in just a few short weeks. Hula Dancers around the world will be tuning in to catch the competition live. The competition can be viewed live in person from Hilo Hawai`i, online from anywhere in the world, or on television from anywhere in Hawai`i.

This year, the festival kicks off on April 16, 2017. The festival honors King David Kalakaua (the last king of the Kingdom of Hawaii,) whose nickname was “The Merrie Monarch.” King Kalakaua is well known and celebrated in the Hawaiian Islands for restoring the Hula after it was banned by the missionaries.

Hula GirlsThe Merrie Monarch greatly impacts the Hawaiian people as it perpetuates our traditional Hawaiian culture. The competition strives to share high quality performances with interested people around the world. Hula Dancers train and practice for extensive amounts of time before they showcase a song. The Merrie Monarch represents a celebration of Hula, and fosters an appreciation of dance in our future generations.

Hula ShowThe competition officially begins on Thursday with the soloist category. 10 women, from 10 different Halau (hula school) will be competing to become Miss. Aloha Hula, your modern day “Hula champion.” On Friday all of the groups will dance their chosen Kahiko (ancient/traditional) number, and on Saturday each group will perform an auana (modern) number. Each student is taught that it’s an honor to enter the competition, and that it’s more about representing your kumu (teacher) to your best ability rather than winning.

Will you be tuning in to partake in the Merrie Monarch festivities, or will you be attending the festival in person?

 

Confessions of a Hula Dancer

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Dancing in a Hula Halau (Hula school) teaches you many wonderful things. Believe it or not, the art of Hula is not the most important thing you learn during your time in a Hula Halau.

Hula DancerImagine this: It’s 11:00 am on a Saturday morning and it’s time for practice. All of the other haumana (students) are in line ready to go, but you are stumbling out of your car because you left your house 5 minutes late. Practice begins, and you are now officially late. Out of respect for your Kumu (teacher,) you pull yourself together and calmly walk over to the Halau where you need to oli (Hawaiian chant) permission to enter. You do the oli 3 times in a row, but because your Kumu is busy with the punctual students, you take a deep breath and do it again; this time chanting louder with more power in your voice. Your Kumu finally gives you permission to enter the Halau. *Note to self- Always be punctual

Keiki Hula DancersWe begin with a Hula warm-up that we call “basics.” We practice our basic steps and our Kumu helps us make corrections as needed. This is to help fine-tune our skills. Your knees are bent and after an intense 30-minute drill they start to ache. You think you’re finally done and you’ve made it, when it’s announced that the final basic drills involve the dreaded o`opa (duck walk,) and the infamous Hula roll (A Hula roll involves sitting in between your legs on the ground and rolling your body around in a circle without the use of your elbows.) Your body feels like it could break. Your knees are shaking, and you start to get light headed as you power through these dreaded drills that are necessary to shape you as a dancer. *Note to self- You are stronger than you think; you can do anything you set your mind to.

Hula GirlsIn a Hula Hulau you are surrounded by tons of children who may be older than you, younger than you, and the same age as you. These are the people you rely on during practices, shows, and competitions. You grow so close to one another that you refer to each other as Hula brothers and Hula sisters. These children teach you teamwork, trust, and eternal love. They say once the stage lights come on dancers become multiple souls in one body. That’s because dancer’s movements should be in complete precision. Basically, when we dance Hula together, we are one. *Note to self- Always strive for your best; your brothers and sisters are counting on you.

Hula dancers are raised with respect for the Hawaiian culture, the land, and for all living things. Hula dancers learn discipline, and tend to have polite mannerisms. Hula dancers are raised with the strong Hawaiian value of aloha (love!) To be a great Hula dancer one must not only dance to make their Kumu (teacher) proud, but one must also exude the values and strength of a true Hula dancer.

 

 

 

Hula Throughout the World

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Hula DancerHula, which originated in Hawaii, has been gaining popularity in various parts of the world. People are developing a deep love for the dance of the Hawaiian people, and the beautiful Hawaiian stories told through this form of art.

In the United States you can find Hula Halau (Hula schools) throughout the states. There are an abundance of Halau across the Hawaiian Islands, but you may be surprised at the number of states that foster the art of Hula. Hula schools are also located in Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming to name a few.

Hula Maidens

Internationally, you will find Hula Halau in French Polynesia and New Zealand, which are close Polynesian cousin of Hawaii. You will also find Hula schools on their neighboring continent of Australia. In Asia you will find large, growing numbers of Hula schools in Japan, as well as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Singapore.

Surprisingly, the countries that border the USA, Mexico and Canada, both have large numbers of hula schools. Mexico has more than 100 Hula Halau. Their love of Hula has overwhelmingly grown in recent years. They even have their own hula competitions, and fly in professional Hawaiian Hula Dancers and Kumu Hula (teachers) to be judges.

Hula DancerOn the other side of the world, In Europe, you will also find many Hula schools. Halau can be found in Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. As far away as the Caribbean, people can learn how to dance hula at a halau in the Dominican Republic. In South America, Brazil even has a couple of Halau.

As a Hawaiian and a Hula Dancer, I feel overwhelmingly proud to see the love of hula growing around the world. There was a time period where my great, great grandparents practiced Hula and the Hawaiian language in secrecy because missionaries outlawed it. Today, I’m able to proudly perform this dance for locals and tourists in Hawai`i, as well as various cities around the world. People fall in love with hula for various reasons. For me personally, hula is apart of me. I don’t just dance hula; I’m a hula dancer.

Who are Hula Dancers?

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Would you believe that Kamehameha Schools, a school for Hawaiian children, is one of the most diverse schools in the world? You must be wondering how that’s possible. It all started back when the sugar cane plantations developed in Hawai`i. Plantation owners were Caucasian while laborers came over from Japan, China, Portugal, Korea, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.

Hapa Hula Dancers

Hapa Hula Dancers

Naturally, the children of Hawai`i began to represent a diverse melting pot of the cultures represented on the islands. Today, most Hawaiian children are mixed with handfuls of other ethnicities. When driving towards the “all Hawaiian school” you’ll see beautiful children with varying skin tones, eye color, hair color, and builds; yet they are all Hawaiian. A term was coined to identify such a diverse group of people. Hapa means mixed. Originally it came from the term “Hapa Haole,” which meant half Hawaiian and half “white foreigner.”

Professional Hula Dancers

Hawaii Hula Company’s beautiful ladies on set of Vacation Creation TV show

Today the term “Hapa” is widely used throughout the Hawaiian Islands to identify people with a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Today’s Hula Dancers reflect the diversity of Hawai`i. I myself am a proud Hawaiian, but I also have 12 other ethnicities including Puerto Rican, Portuguese, Cherokee Indian, Spanish, and Irish. As hula spreads throughout the world, dancers even come to Hawai`i from the U.S. Mainland, or various Asian countries to pursue their dreams as Hula Dancers.

Hula dancer on Oahu

Hula Dancer

Hula Dancers have a love for Hula as well as the Hawaiian culture. King David Kalakaua once said: “Hula is the language of the heart, therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.” Hula is even taught to the children of Hawai`i in public and private schools. The ongoing tradition of May Day allows children to learn and dance hula in schools and perform in front of one another.

So who are Hula Dancers? Simply put, Hula Dancers are Hawaiian, not Hawaiian, Born in Hawai`i, not born in Hawai`i, children of the islands, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, grandmas, and grandpas. The art of Hula doesn’t turn anyone away. It is a dance filled with deep culture and love.

 

A Day in the Life of a Professional Hula Dancer

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Many professional Hula Dancers of Hawai`i spend their day performing at multiple events, engaging with people from around the world, and graciously sharing the aloha spirit. A Hula Dancer’s day is usually filled with happiness and joy, as we are able to celebrate many special occasions, and be apart of people’s noteworthy moments. Allow me to take you on a walk through my day.

My day started at sunrise down on the beach where the ocean meets the sand. As the sun rose, and the birds chirped, I danced to the sweet sound of my favorite musician playing his ukulele. After my opening hula I watched 6 couples, from 6 different countries, renew their vows as they openly shared their love for one another. The sunrise vow renewal ceremony gave my body more caffeine than a cup of my daily Starbucks.

Hula DancerFollowing the early morning start I treated myself to a beautiful Hawaiian hike before my next gig. A few hours later, I met up with two of my closest friends to dance as a trio at one of O`ahu’s secluded, high-end hotels. We shared the stage with three of our usual, talented musicians. The six of us worked together to deliver a high-energy show. After the show we were invited to eat the left over food and mingle with our guests, who came from Australia. They were celebrating a 25th wedding anniversary. Having recently traveled through Australia, we had a ton to converse about. We shared travel tips, and wished them well before heading down to end the evening at the well-known Waikiki strip.

As I pulled into my last gig of the evening at a prestigious Waikiki hotel, fireworks going off over the ocean greeted me. Although I grew up about 10 minutes from Waikiki, the magic of Waikiki that you hear about in many Hawaiian songs never gets old. I met up with two of my musicians excited to begin my last show of the evening. After my first hula a pair of adorable sisters approached me. The girls were dolled up in Hawaiian print dresses with flowers in their hair. Although they were both under five years old, they were extremely friendly and conversational. We became an instant group of besties, and they decided to sit with me until my next set. Their polite parents were worried that they were in the way, but I insisted they were just fine. When I went up for my second set I surprised the girls by calling them up to do a hula with me. Their parents smiled and recorded their daughters dancing a song about seashells under the bright Hawaiian moon. As a hula dancer, one of the things I value most is the happiness I’m able to share with others, and these girls couldn’t contain their smiles.Hula Dancer

The day of a Hawaiian performer is typically fueled by passion, energy, laughter, the love of people, and dance. The next time you see a Hula Dancer’s radiant smile you’ll be able to relate to his/her daily experiences, and know that you are contributing factor to that display of pearly whites.

 

Aloha Spirit

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The meaning of aloha is much deeper than a greeting. Although aloha means hello, goodbye, and love; essentially it’s a way of life. Aloha spirit is exuded throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Aloha spirit is a guideline to act rightfully. Visitors often express that they can feel aloha as soon as they arrive in Hawai`i. Literally translated, aloha is “the presence of breath,” or “the breath of life.” “Alo” means presence, and “ha” means breath.

Aloha-Hula

Hula is an expression of aloha

Haumana (students) are taught about aloha from a young age at their halau (hula school.) It is a hula dancer’s kuleana (responsibility) to understand the meaning of aloha in order to share it with others. When a hula dancer presents you with a lei (flowers/shells strung together to be worn,) he/she is sharing a symbol of affection, and is genuinely welcoming you with open arms.

Aloha Lei

Giving a lei is a symbol of aloha

In ancient Hawai`i, kahuna (priests) embedded the spirit of aloha in the Hawaiian people. It was said that self-perfection could be reached by fully living by the spirit of aloha. The Hawaiians lived in harmony within their ahupua`a (land division,) each perfecting their skills and sharing everything with one another.

Hula Dancer

Interestingly enough, not only has the aloha spirit been kept alive and well in Hawai`i, but it is also a law. That’s right! Aloha spirit is an official law in the state of Hawai`i. The official Aloha Spirit Law can be found in section 5-7.5. The law states: “All citizens and government officials of Hawaii are obligated by law to conduct themselves in accordance with this law, while performing their duties and obligations, as well as in their day-to-day living. Likewise, those visiting our fair islands are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with this Hawaiian law.”

Now that you’re familiar with the spirit of aloha it’s time to book your plane ticket and experience the spirit of aloha first hand.

pretty hula girl
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