National Geographic: The Surprising History of Hawai‘i’s Hula Tradition

Above, hula dancers perform at the Big Kahuna luau in Honolulu. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Whether or not one has ever visited Hawaii, the hula dancer is one of the most familiar of Hawaiian cultural things to people.

It is surprising that hula dancing almost ended completely.

National Geographic has posted an article on the surprising history of the hula tradition.

They begin with:

How a sacred Hawaiian dance and music ritual was canceled, commercialized, and finally, revived.

With her flower crown and grass skirt, the hula girl has been synonymous with Hawaiian hospitality since cruise ships first docked in Honolulu in the 1920s. Even today, exoticized images of these traditional dancers headline on travel websites, at tiki-themed bars, and on wiggly dashboard tchotchkes.

Over the past two centuries, the cherished Hawaiian dance has moved from a sacred religious practice to a tourist attraction, along the way falling prey to cultural appropriation and near erasure.  

“People shunned the old style of hula and looked at dancers like they were heathens,” says Micah Kamohoali‘i, a kumu hula (hula teacher) and cultural ambassador on the island of Hawai‘i. “Then our hula became more of a Hollywood show. We never danced with cellophane skirts and coconut bras.”

Above, a dashboard tchotchke in my RV that I bought in Hawaii. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

 To read more, go here

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