Hula, Luau, and Fire Dancing

Hula Dancing in Hawaii was not always the swaying, lulling motions we conjure today. Its origins are more drum-driven; an indigenous style, if we can use that as an adjective. It’s a form of story telling, about ancestors, the Earth, the volcanoes and ocean. It has sharp movements, yet still delicate.

Watch a video that I took–the embed function isn’t working; sorry.

What we do think of–and consider sexy–evolved when guitars and ukuleles were introduced to Hawaiian culture. Interesting tidbit: Ukuleles were brought by the Portuguese. These instruments inspired more swaying and softer movements. Yes, there is a sensuality to the dance, but it’s actually modest and refined for the majority of the dance. Men perform the hula too; and they also showcase their, um, wares. Consider the community events when Hula would be danced: it is a time to showcase talents and to display your fertility, so this makes sense to me. And even with these gratuitous factors, I found Hula to be gentle, tender, loving, and expressive.

Watch a video from YouTube. 

Hula Dancers

Photos Courtesy of the Polynesian Cultural Center


I went to the Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu. The costumes and dancing were magnificent, which was no surprise given the experiences I’d had exploring and learning with them that day. The meal was buffet style; which innately doesn’t bother me. But it did interfere with the ability to enjoy the show–buffet for 600 takes some time. And since the PCC graciously gave me Ambassador status (because I’m a blogger), that let me get food first, but that also meant I missed the acts and activities at the beginning of the show. By the time I got back to my table, the show was over… Sad.

Alii Court at the Polynesian Cultural Center Luau in Hawaii

The “Royal Court” opens the ceremony. Their capes are made from bird feathers!
Photo Courtesy of the Polynesian Cultural Center

Pig at the Luau

Photo Courtesy of the Polynesian Cultural Center

 Hula at the Luau

Photo Courtesy of the Polynesian Cultural Center

Fire Dancing

After the Luau, you can stay for a ticketed show called “Ha.” It is by far the most spectacular production I have ever seen–and I am a theater junkie.

I think that as a country, we give a standing ovation too easily these days. The show is over, and up we go. Let me tell you, not every show deserves an ovation. Sure, they work hard, and that’s what applause is for. You get a raise for working hard; you get a bonus for being spectacular.  Make sense? Ha deserved a standing ovation–and I was the first one out of my seat.

Work with me here–there are a lot of comparisons coming your way. Ha is a combination of Broadway and Cirque du Soleil (minus the contortion, but keep the grandeur); it’s Three Stooges with slapstick and the Olympics Opening Ceremonies with awe; it’s like Stomp with drums and rhythm and flair and Alvin Ailey for movement, strength, and grace; It’s a little bit square dancing with gospel and indigenous ritual all mixed together. And then they dance with fire.

Click the pic to advance the slideshow. All images are courtesy of the Polynesian Cultural Center.

The show has a cast of 100–many of whom are students from the BYU Hawaii campus, representing their native cultures. Original costumes, music compositions, chants, and dances were produced with cultural experts.

The show is muscular and active; yet fluid and controlled, gentle and sublime. There are both costumes with flowers and feathers and bare-chested men.  It’s entirely in-language. The stamina of the dancers is unbelievable. Beyond the duration of constant, intensive dancing, the choreography is complex. Add multiple drums, guitars, ukulele and singers. It was thrilling.


What indigenous activity have you had the opportunity to experience?

Disclosure: The Polynesian Cultural Center gave me a complimentary Ambassador pass, which included entry, a guided tour for the day, and access to the luau and Ha evening performance.

3 Responses

Listening to Christmas carols sung in Polish during an outdoor pageant. It was part of an annual Christmas market and festival in the square in Krakow in December. I grew up listening to my aunts, uncles and grandparents sing these songs every Christmas during my entire childhood. Listening to others sing them in Poland brought tears to my eyes.

So did Si and Marsha hula?

Did they do the Maori Haka? I saw that performed at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Impressive.
Just One Boomer (Suzanne) recently posted..Turkeytopia for a Philly PhridayMy Profile

Suzanne – they did do the Maori Haka.

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