The Birthplace of Hula ; A Hula at the Birthplace of the Dance Is Nothing like One at a Honolulu Hotel

By Katie Wainwright Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, April 21, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Birthplace of Hula ; A Hula at the Birthplace of the Dance Is Nothing like One at a Honolulu Hotel


Katie Wainwright Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


"Hula," the Hawaiian word most known throughout the world, immediately brings to mind the image of grass skirts, coconuts, and swinging hips. But when I was visiting the islands, a Hawaiian friend suggested if I truly wanted to get past the glitz of the tourist-focused presentation to the heart and soulof the dance, I should visit Molokai, birthplace of the hula.

Her cousin was hosting a luau on Molokai, the most rural of the Hawaiian islands, to honor her son's first birthday. Relatives would dance in celebration, roast a pig in an open pit, and rejoice all day. Part of the commemoration would be a traditional hula.

The hula has had a turbulent history. When missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1820 to preach and teach, they did their best to stamp out the dance, which they perceived as lewd and objectionable.

In 1830, Queen Kaahumanu converted to Christianity and forbade public hula performances. By 1896, when the Hawaiian language was banned from schools, the hula had almost disappeared.

During the time when it was out of favor, knowledgeable elders far from the mission stations still taught the hula and its oral tradition. The dancers entertained in local homes. In this way, both the dance and the language were kept alive.

Different styles and types of hula evolved from the history of the people dancing.

Before hula studios and cellophane skirts came into existence, a dancer was chosen because the proper authorities deemed her suitable and worthy.

After the selection came a long period of training. The dancers lived under the strict supervision of the kumu-hula, a dance master skilled in the arts. They adhered to rigid rules regulating diet, behavior, recreation, studies, and practice.

The school was usually a large thatched structure called the halau hula, spacious, airy, and closed on all sides to avoid the spying eyes of the villagers.

After long and arduous training, when the pupils were judged ready to be seen publicly, they were presented at a ritual called uniki, or graduation exercise. Perfection of performance was required of every dancer.

During the l920s and '30s, thanks to Hollywood - Dorothy Lamour in her sarong - and a budding tourist industry, the hula became the enduring emblem of the islands. The more traditional forms have made a comeback since the late 1960s, when native Hawaiians began rediscovering their historical culture.

The modern hula is usually danced to songs, while more traditional hulas are danced to a chant known as a mele. Contemporary performances are presented with greater emphasis on the motions than on the words, although the body movements do interpret the words' meanings to some extent.

I wondered just what type of hula was in store for me.

As I peered through the window of the island-hopping airplane, Molokai looked daunting - it has a vertical "wall" rising 2,000 feet from the crashing Pacific surf. Ancient Hawaiians named the island molo meaning barren and kai meaning sea.

When Capt. James Cook "discovered" Molokai in 1778, he found it bleak and inhospitable. Its epitaph became the Forgotten Isle.

Precisely because of this isolation, the second-largest concentration of native Hawaiians live here. The largest group lives in the island of Niihau, closed to outsiders. Until tourists saturated Oahu and Maui, few ventured to Molokai.

From the airport, Route 460 leads to Kuanakakai, the hub town on the south shore that came to the world's attention through a song played by the Benny Goodman orchestra about the "cockeyed mayor of Kuanakakai." Half of the island's 7,400 citizens live here.

Wooden buildings reminiscent of an Old West movie set front the main street. The three-block business district resembles Dodge City and has one traffic light. Six cars constitutes a traffic jam.

The story is told that on a sacred hill in Kaana, amid verdant groves, Laka, the goddess of hula, was taught to dance by her sister Kapo. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Birthplace of Hula ; A Hula at the Birthplace of the Dance Is Nothing like One at a Honolulu Hotel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.