Hawaii Hula Company

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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.


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.

Polynesian Dances

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The beautiful and cultural islands of Polynesia have many forms of song and dance. However, each dance is associated with a specific island group, and is special to a specific culture. Hula comes from the islands of Hawai`i, Tahitian derives from the islands of Tahiti, the Haka and Poi Balls originated in New Zealand, and fire knife dancing comes from Samoa. Although these dances may often be seen performed back to back in a Polynesian show, they are unique, and represent various cultures.

Hula Kihiko

Hula Kahiko

Hula is the dance of the Native Hawaiians. You may see beautiful graceful Hula Auana, or strong and powerful Hula Kahiko. Legend says that the Hula was originally performed for Pele, the goddess of fire, by her sister, Hi`iaka. Many Hula chants are an oral record of the history of Hawai`i. The Hula has greatly changed over the years, but its’ ancient roots are still portrayed in the dance. After the arrival of missionaries on the Hawaiian Islands in 1820, hula was banned. Although the dance was somewhat revived years later for the purpose of religious freedom, King David Kalakaua is credited for the full revival of the hula during his reign between 1874-1891. The art of Hula is credited for preserving the culture of the Native Hawaiians. Hula is well respected throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and can be seen at various events.

Tahitian Dancers

Tahitian Dancers

Ori Tahiti (Tahitian dance) is the dance of the Tahitian people. You may see the Otea, which consists of gyrating hip movements to drumming, or the Aparima, which tells a story through song. Tahitian people are known to love song and dance. In ancient times, the native people of Tahiti would perform various dances for special occasions. There was a dance to greet visitors at a ceremony, dances for prayer and worship, and other dances dedicated to ancient gods. Similar to the history of Hawai`i, upon arrival of the missionaries, they banned all songs, games, and dances- as they viewed them as vulgar. Ori Tahiti wasn’t revived until the 1950’s; over a hundred years after it was suppressed by British colonists. Tahitian dance is well and alive today. Many people consider the Tahitian O`tea one of the most spectacular dances of Polynesia.

The Haka is one of New Zeland’s traditional dances. There are many forms of the Haka. One of the most popular is the “Ka Mate.” The Haka portrays strong, war like gestures. Historically, the Haka was performed for a variety of purposes ranging from preparing for battle to funeral services. Another dance of the Maori people is called Poi. Poi balls are weighted balls connected to string. They can be long or short. Poi tells a story while the dancer creates rhythmic and geometric patterns with the poi balls.

Fire Knife Dancer

Fire Knife Dancer

The fiery fire knife dance comes from Samoa. It has been passed on from generation to generation. The dance involves the brave twirling of a war knife. Traditionally the dance was used in ancient time to prepare a warrior’s mind for battle. Today’s fire knife dancers have added additional style and boldness to their performance.

Although the islands of Polynesia may share some similarities, each island is unique, having many differences. The dances of each specific island is special to its’ people. Each dance is distinguished and beloved by its’ specific culture.

Hula Costumes

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Just as you would dress accordingly for the weather, a Hula Dancer dresses accordingly for the type of song he or she performs. Costumes are an immense part of preparing for any performance. Just as a dancer’s hands and expressions tell a story, a costume is supposed to enhance that story, and help bring it to life. Costumes range from traditional hula skirts to elegant dresses, to brightly colored cellophane skirts.

Hula Kahiko

Performing a traditional Hula Kahiko

Hula Kahiko: The Hula Kahiko is the traditional style of dance. Originally, only men would perform the Hula, but today both men and women enjoy dancing. Kahiko is performed to chants instead of music. The chants are usually accompanied by a pahu (drum) or an ipu (hollowed gourd) to keep the rhythm. Men often wear a malo (loincloth) while performing Hula Kahiko while women typically wear voluminous skirts. The Hula Kahiko is a very powerful dance that requires strength and discipline from the dancer. The chants often speak about Hawaiian legends and gods. Kahiko adornments are made from foliage and are typically worn around a dancer’s head, neck, wrists, and ankles.

Hula Auana

Performing a modern Hula Auana

Hula `Auana: The Hula `Auana the modern style of dance performed by both men and women. The mele (songs) are accompanied by musical instruments such as `ukuleles and guitars. Men wear aloha shirts with slacks, or may go shirtless. The women wear gorgeous, long flowing dresses or t-leaf skirts. Hula `Auana dancers will be adorned with beautiful flowers in their hair and around their neck. This particular style of dancing is soft and graceful. Through the art of Hula `Auana, the dancer is able to tell an entire story through the use of his/her hands.

Hula Dancers

Preparing for a Hapa Haole Hula set

Hapa Haole: Hapa Haole Hula is a form of entertainment that became popular in the 1940’s. The songs are sung in English and accompanied by modern instruments. Hapa Haole tunes are usually upbeat and a tad playful. Dancers may wear brightly colored cellophane skirts, grass skirts, or knee length dresses adorned with flowers.

Regardless of what type of Hula a dancer is preparing for, he/she takes great pride in appearance, and representing the song/chant well.


Professional Hula Dancers

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Those who have experienced the magic of a true Hawaiian Hula show often leave feeling mesmerized and pleased. However, many often question what it takes to be a professional Hula Dancer. The truth is, anyone who decides to enter the realm of professional hula dancing has a great passion for the unique, complex art form, and is eager to share the love of Hula with locals and visitors, alike.

Hula in Hawaii

The Ladies of Hawaii Hula Company

Hula is taught in a halau, which is a school for Hula. Children as young as two attend classes where both Hula Kahiko (ancient style of dance) and Hula ‘Auana (modern style of dance) are taught. Students in a halau form a close bond with their Kumu Hula (teacher) as well as the other students, which they refer to as their hula brothers and sisters. Years upon years of practice provide haumana (hula students) with the discipline, knowledge, and aloha they need to be successful Hula Dancers. Many halau perform at community events and festivals or train for Hula competitions to showcase their learning.

Hula Halau focus on hula basics. It is not uncommon for students to practice a basic skill until their kumu is satisfied with their performance. Students will also practice the same songs and chants repeatedly to perfect them.

Hula DancerHula dances may be performed with a dancer’s hands, or utilizing implements. The most common implements are the ‘uli’uli (Hawaiian feathered rattles,) pu’ili (split bamboo sticks,) and ipu (hand held calabash gourd.) However, dancers may also utilize kala’au (dancing rhythm sticks,) ‘ili’ili (smooth lava rock castanets,) or a puniu (knee drum.)

Dancing Hula

Aloha from Oahu’s brand new mall, Ka Makana Ali’i

Next time you’re gazing at a group of Hula dancers wondering how they learned how to dance, how long they’ve practiced for, or what made them become a professional Hula Dancer, just know it took them a lot of heart and soul as well as many years of dedication and determination. Hula becomes such a great part of a dancer that it becomes who they are instead of what they do. Most importantly, not only does a Hula Dancer share his/her culture and passion with you when they perform for you, but they also joyfully share a piece of themselves.



A Day in the Life of a Hawaiian Wedding Musician

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A Day in the Life of a Hawaiian Wedding Musician;  A blog entry from one of our Hawaiian Musicians…


So there I was…back on Oahu after my Hawaii Hula Company gig on Maui, gearing up for my engagement with a wedding couple in Waikiki. I just love singing for weddings! Everyone is so happy, love is in the air, and many eyes are misty with joyful smiles. My eyes often get misty and I have to remind myself that Iʻm working! What a contrast! because thats really why its called “playing” music!

After the work it takes to rehearse and learn those special love songs, like the Hawaiian Wedding Song, we play like its no work at all! And actually… by the time we rehearse our Hawaiian Love Songs to perfection, it never appears to be work! Go figure!


Solo Hawaiian Wedding Musician

I usually perform with my guitar in Hawaiian Style Slack Key, but this time the wedding couple requested that their Hawaiian Wedding Musician perform with an Ukulele. Not a problem for me, because the Ukulele was one of my first instruments. Thing is… after returning to Oahu, I suddenly remembered that my Ukulele was still on Maui! Luckily, I was able to borrow my granddaughters Ukulele and all was well in my world again. Mahalo nui granddaughter!

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It was a typical busy Waikiki day with traffic lights, road work, lots of people, parking… then I finally arrived at the wedding location selected by the bride and groom.

It was a sweet private family affair. The wedding couple had chosen a lovely alcove away from the hustle bustle, under a lovely bower of colorful bougainvillea. Family members present, photographer present, officiant arrives, all is in place. Special songs for a special day…Hawaiian Wedding Music begins.


With anticipation we all wait for the arrival of the bride and grooms sweet flower girl. She was just adorable as she accentuated the walkway with her flower petals, leading the way in for the bride, and taking her place with the bridal party.

Lovely Flower Girl

Lovely Flower Girl

My song selections included the traditional Hawaiian Wedding Song entitled Ke Kali Nei Au, a most appropriate processional for the bride. Some of the other songs played included:

E Maliu Mai, e Kuʻu Ipo – Listen To My Call, My Sweetheart.

White Sandy Beach.

A Song of Old Hawaiʻi. 

Hilo Bay. 

I’ll Weave a Lei of Stars for You. 

Akaka Falls.

A beautiful couple, beaming with love for one another. What a wonderful afternoon!

pretty hula girl
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