New Release: The Haumāna Hula Handbook for Students of Hawaiian Dance
Categories: Literature & the Arts
In her new book, The Haumāna Hula Handbook for Students of Hawaiian Dance, Māhealani Uchiyama offers readers a unique look into the origins, language, etiquette, ceremonies, and spiritual culture of hula.
Growing up during the early Civil Rights Movement, Uchiyama initially trained as a ballerina. Given the limited opportunities available to young women of color in the classical ballet world, Uchiyama parlayed her passion into another dance tradition: hula. Now, after having committed nearly 25 years to perfecting her craft, she continues to share what she’s learned with the world.
Below is an adapted first look:
It is impossible to pinpoint the exact beginning of the sacred tradition of hula, but there are many delightful stories. One of the most famous of these involved Hi‘iakaikapoliopele, the youngest sister of the volcano goddess Pele.
It is said that once, upon a visit of the Pele clan to the beautiful shore of Nānāhuki, Pele requested a dance to bless the occasion. One by one, each of her sisters refused the request, except for Hi‘iaka, who, accompanied by her close companion Hōpoe, offered a delightful dance by the sea.
The swaying of the leaves on the Puna coast and the hala groves at Kea‘au are depicted by the upheld arms of Hōpoe, encircled by greenery. Hōpoe, a mortal thought by many to be the first hula dancer, learned to imitate the movement of the hala forest, adorned herself in the verdure of that land, and thus created the dance we know as hula.
Hōpoe learned to sway her hips by imitating the movement and rhythm of the surf. She then taught the dance to her companion, Hi‘iakaikapoliopele. From this time forward, the hula was offered to the gods, done in honor of Hawai’i’s royalty, and danced in celebration of life’s mysteries.
Emphasizing the importance of cultural literacy, The Haumāna Hula Handbook introduces hula etiquette and practices, explains the format of a traditional hula presentation, and includes sections on Hawaiian language and chants that are sure to make you want to get up and dance!