Accompanied by chant or song which preserves oral history, the Hula is distinctly Hawaiian. Hawaiian legends tell stories of hula beginning on the islands of Molokai and Kauai. This fascinating art form has become an international symbol of Hawaiian heritage and culture. The popularity of hula has spread to the U.S. mainland, Japan, and even Europe. There are many types of hula which can be cataloged by style, by subject matter, by era, and so many other ways.
According to the Hula Preservation Society, there are over 300 different kinds of hula. Within each of the main categories of hula are many deviations. Some are specific to geographic areas; the hula of Molokai are different from the hula of Hilo, the hula of Hilo are different from the hula of Kona. Even though they are on the same island there are subtle differences in the dance. Some hula styles are specific to families; Kanaka’ole hula are very different from Beamer hula. The hula is considered a living art form and innovative kumu (hula coaches/instructors) evolve new styles. Other kumu focus on preserving the old. Hula auana (modern hula) is danced to western influenced music and features a more lively and fluid style. This is the most familiar type of hula for visitors. Hula kahiko (ancient hula) is danced to dramatic chants and percussion with more traditional costumes.
Every hula dancer learns the saying “a’ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka halau ho’okahi” which means not all knowledge is taught in one school. Throughout all of the styles, however, there is one defining characteristic... hula is storytelling. Without the story, there is no hula. Within each style of hula there is a vocabulary of motion which is consistent within that style. An educated hula dancer can see another dancer and tell the genealogy, the lineal descent from teacher to teacher, of the dancer by his or her movements.
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