Hula Dance: The Heartbeat of the Hawaiian People

Discover the captivating world of Hula dance, its ancient origins, and its vital role in preserving Hawaiian culture, history, and spiritual traditions.

Hula Dance: The Heartbeat of the Hawaiian People
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Hula dance is a vital aspect of Hawaiian culture, reflecting the islands’ rich history and traditions. This article delves into the fascinating world of Hula, discussing its origins, cultural significance, and various styles. By understanding this ancient art form, readers can better appreciate its central role in the lives of the Hawaiian people.

The Origins of Hula

Hula’s roots can be traced back to ancient Hawaii, with mythological and historical origins dating back centuries. The dance is believed to have been created by the gods, specifically the goddess Laka, who is considered the patron of Hula. Hula played a crucial role in preserving the oral history and cultural heritage of the Hawaiian people, as it was used to narrate stories, myths, and genealogies through movement, chant, and rhythm.

The Two Styles of Hula: Kahiko and ‘Auana

Two main styles of Hula exist: the traditional Kahiko and the modern ‘Auana. Kahiko is the ancient form of Hula, accompanied by traditional instruments such as the pahu (drum) and the ipu (gourd). Dancers wear traditional attire, including grass skirts and lei (garlands). ‘Auana, however, is a more contemporary style, influenced by Western culture. It is often accompanied by modern instruments like the guitar and ukulele, and dancers wear more elaborate costumes. Both styles reflect different aspects of Hawaiian culture and history, with Kahiko preserving ancient traditions and ‘Auana showcasing the evolution of Hula over time.

Hula as a Spiritual Practice

Hula is deeply connected to the spiritual beliefs of the Hawaiian people. The chant (mele) is an essential component of Hula, as it invokes the presence of gods, ancestors, and the natural world. The dancer’s movements serve as a physical embodiment of the chant, creating a powerful connection between the performer and the spiritual realm. This sacred aspect of Hula is still very much alive today, as many dancers continue to honor the gods and their ancestors through their performances.

Learning Hula: The Role of Kumu Hula and Hālau

The preservation and transmission of Hula knowledge and traditions are entrusted to Kumu Hula (Hula teachers) and Hālau (Hula schools). Kumu Hula undergo years of rigorous training and dedication to become skilled in the art of Hula, and they, in turn, pass their knowledge onto their students. The Hālau serves as a community where dancers can learn, practice, and immerse themselves in the rich culture of Hula.

Hula in Contemporary Hawaiian Culture

In modern Hawaiian society, Hula continues to play a vital role in preserving cultural identity. The dance is present in various celebrations, festivals, and other cultural events, serving as a living connection to the islands’ past. There has been a resurgence of interest in Hula in recent years, as more people recognize its importance in maintaining a connection to their Hawaiian heritage.

Experiencing Hula Dance Firsthand

Travelers to the Hawaiian Islands have numerous opportunities to witness and participate in Hula performances and workshops. Cultural centers, luaus, and festivals often feature Hula demonstrations, allowing visitors to experience this unique art form up close. By immersing themselves in the Hula experience, travelers can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Hawaiian culture.


Hula dance is a beautiful and enduring expression of Hawaiian culture, captivating all who witness its mesmerizing movements and rhythms. As travelers explore the Hawaiian Islands, embracing Hula dance is an invaluable way to deepen their connection to the land and its people. By understanding the significance of this ancient art form, visitors can truly appreciate the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.


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