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Hula Origins

One must realize that the ancient Hawaiian must have possessed a vast knowledge of his surroundings because of his accomplishments. When the western man thought that the world was flat, the Hawaiian sailed thousands of miles between Aotearoa (New Zealand) in the west,  Rapanui (Easter Island) to the East and to Hawai`i, the third extremity, North of the Equator in the vicinity of the Tropic of Cancer. These 3 groups of islands are known as the Polynesian Triangle. 

With only the stars as their guide, they came in double hulled canoes, with animals and plants that would feed them, women and children to populate this new land, the gods and goddesses to take care of their spiritual needs and a strong desire to live on this new land called Hawai`i.

Upon arriving on these shores they found that these islands looked very similar to the land that they came from and the island of Maui was shaped like the island of Tahiti, except upside down, so an Ahu Pua`a (land division) was named Tahiti Nui (pronounced today Kahikinui), located on the south-Western side of Maui. 

The islands possessed fertile volcanic soil, verdant valleys and numerous sources of fresh water. The ocean and streams contain an abundance of food. With skills learned from past generations, they fashioned their homes, made clothes, built temples, carved canoes, practiced aqua-culture, farmed and populated all the major islands. In the late seventeen hundreds, Capt. Vancouver upon
sailing past these islands commented on how "barren and desolate" these islands were. 

When did the Hula Start?

s, trees, birds, etc.  

Following the arrival of the missionaries in the 1820's in Hawaii, hula was discouraged.  For many years, Hawaiians  were not allowed to perform this dance, although in distant villages some did so in secret so the art was not entirely lost.  Hula was revived in King Kalakaua's reign and again danced in public by many people. "Hula is the language of the heart of therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people," as King Kalakaua proclaimed.


Ancient hula was performed under the watchful eye of the hula master or kumu and presented in a formal manner.  The agile younger men and women performed the gestures and movements of the dance.  They wore tapa (cloth) skirts and anklets fashioned from fish teeth.   Leis of foliage or flowers crowned their heads and shoulders  The older community members participated by playing percussion instruments and chanting.

Two ways of Presenting the Song (Mele)

There are two distinct ways for presenting mele: the oli and the hula.

  • The oli is a method of chanting or saying the words in a monotone voice in a solo without music.  
  • Hula, which accompanied the song, was the physical interpretation of the words of the song.

Types of Hula

  • Hula auana : typical Hawaiian dances; most familiar, playful, joyous recounting of contemporary life
  • -Hula Kahiko - chant relates proud & somber history, customs, ceremonies, traditions

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