When I tell people that I’m a hula dancer, the first thing they think of is hulahooping or what you see on tv. The dancing you see in movies doesn’t depict what hula really is and what it means. Hula is an entire culture in itself; dancing is used as a way to tell stories through movements of the hand, feet and hips. Hula dancing isn’t just a style of dance; it is a culture and a way of life. Hula was created as a way of passing down the history of the Hawaiian people before they had a written language. In the beginning, only the men would dance; soon after, the women joined in too. Many dances were to honor the goddesses Pele and Laka; Pele being the goddess of volcanoes and Laka being the goddess of nature.
The word “hula” is specific to the Hawaiians because that is where the style for dance originated. There are two different styles in hula, Auana and Kahiko. Auana is a softer style, with movements that are meant to be graceful and beautiful; while Kahiko is stricter, with sharp and tight movements. Auana is my personal favorite because it reminds me much of the flow of water and it looks so beautiful. Every single movement in a hula dance symbolizes something; whether it be love, flowers, or the ocean. Besides hula, I have also studied Tahitian, Sasa, and Lapalapa. Tahitian is a style of dance that originates from Tahiti and many people recognize it today. It is the fast, shaking of the hips that everyone loves to watch; those dances don’t tell stories but they are just as much fun to dance and is another one of my personal favorites. Sasa and Lapalapa originate from the Samoans, where their dances consist of slapping, clapping, and chanting.
I began learning hula at the age of five years old. My Dad grew up in Hawaii where he learned to dance as a kid; that is what pushed him to have me dance as well. As the years went by, it no longer was a hobby for me; I fell in love with the music, the stories, and the dances. One of my personal favorites is dance called “Lei Hali’a” which tells a story about a man who smells the scent of a certain flower that reminds him of his love and all his memories of her. He is reminded of the happiness and joy she brought to him. It is stories like those that are not only beautiful to dance, but beautiful to watch as well. I remember being five years old, watching the professionals dance in front of me, and dreaming about
being one of them. Fast forward eleven years later and my dream has come true. In the past year, I received my Hawaiian dancer name from my Auntie, who has been my kumu(my teacher) for 11 years. I now go by Kailani whenever I am on stage or helping to teach a class. Being named by your kumu is a significant moment for a hula dancer because it means that you have grown enough as a dancer to share, teach hula to others, and participate in paid performances and competitions. Since becoming a professional hula dancer a little over a year ago I have had the opportunity to perform for people all over North Carolina. I have been hired to dance at wedding receptions, birthday parties, backyard luaus, corporate events and even a local prom! I love being able to share this beautiful culture with others and look forward to continuing for years to come. I will soon be teaching beginner classes in Cary. :)
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