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.
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.”
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 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.