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Hula History

Click here for the Japanese version

  • Hula today is appreciated worldwide for its artistry and has been used by native hawaiians to tell stories for centuries.
  • According to one version, LAKA, the goddess of hula, gave birth to the dance on the island of Moloka’i. By the time Captain Cook sighted the island in 1778, natives had been performing the hula for centuries.
  • When Protestant missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1820, they were shocked by the Native Hawaiians’ open form of dancing and believed hula promoted heathen beliefs.
  • In 1830, the missionaries convinced Queen Kaahumanu to outlaw the hula!
  • Following Queen Kaahumanu’s death in 1832, some Hawai’ian chiefs refused to recognize the ban on hula. In 1834, King Kamehameha III openly disobeyed the previous “kanawai” (the law) forbidding the performance of hula in public.
  • Starting in 1851, public hula performances became regulated through a licensing system, with a heavy fee levied for each performance.
  • In 1878-79, a portuguese musical instrument found its way to Hawai’i. it developed into the taro patch fiddle and then the ukulele. In 1885, La’ie native Joseph Kekuku invented the steel guitar.
  • During the reign of King Kalakaua, the hula enjoyed a public revival. “Hula is the language of the heart and therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people,” he said. Kalakaua’s coronation in 1883 and jubilee in 1886 both featured continuous hula performances.
  • In the late 1890s and early 1900s, hula dancers and hawaiian musicians toured the U.S. mainland. Usually female, the dancers wore grass skirts, and musicians played kitschy Hawai’ian melodies on the steel guitar and ukulele.
  • The Merrie Monarch Festival started in Hilo, Hawai’i, in 1963 by the efforts of Uncle George Na’ope and Aunty Dottie Thompson, when the chairman of the county of Hawai’i looked into new ways to attract visitors to the island during an economic downturn.
  • Hula girls, an award-winning japanese film, hit theaters in 2006. The film tells the real-life story of a group of girls using hula to save their mining village, Iwaki.
  • In 2008, a hula dance troupe called the “Obama Hula Girls” made headlines helping the Japanese city of Obama celebrate the election of new president Barack Obama.
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