Hawaii Luaus
1-866-482-9775

A Brief History of Hula

Hula has its roots in ancient history as a ritual dance performed for the volcano goddess, Pele. It is said that her sister, Hi'iaka originally performed the dance for Pele. According to legend, the goddess Laka was the keeper of the dance and was honored with prayers, offerings, and leis provided by the dancers. Laka was the goddess most often referred to when it comes to modern Hula dancing. As an oral history, the mele is often performed as it describes the story of Hi'aka and Pele. Its ancient roots can be seen in the movements that symbolize nature with all its contrasts, from the gentle swaying of the palms to the wildly exploding dances of war.

Men impart poetry as female dancers play the story out in expressive form. Instruments used at the time were sharkskin drums, rattles, gourds and castanets. Contrary to popular belief, the costumes were not made of grass. Women wore wrapped skirts made of cloth and men wore loincloths. Leis, bracelets, and necklaces were worn. But the leis were not meant to be worn after a ritual dance because they were placed on the altar of Laka as an offering of flowers to the goddess. Hula was more than just a ritual dance. It was the Hawaiian's way of keeping a record of history. Much of the history was lost after it was banned in the early part of the 19th century.

Originally, the hula was called the "Ha`a". The name was changed to "Hula" in the 19th century. In 1820, Christian missionaries arrived in Hawaii and immediately began to convert the people to their religion. When Queen Ka'ahumanu became a Christian, she had the temples, known in Hawaiian as Heiaus, and goddess images destroyed. Hula was banned because it was considered to be a pagan ritual dance with moves the missionaries saw as vulgar, disgusting, sexual, and sinful. It was taught and performed only in secret.
King Kamehameaha III reestablished Hula in the 1830's when he insisted on religious freedom.

The last king of Hawaii, David Kalakaua, whose reign lasted from 1874-91, encouraged not only its performance but added moves, costumes, text, and songs. He was known as the Merry Monarch and loved to travel among the people. The Hula was part of the festivals and celebrations often danced in his honor. Early in the 20th century; prayers, rituals, and training were still a major part of the Hula dance. Though modern influence has touched Hula dancing, it still remains a beautiful dance to watch or perform. Check out Hawaii Discount (#hawaiidiscount) for the best offers and prices on tours and activities such as luaus featuring hula.