Hula By Shaka, Angeline
Hula, as the Native Hawaiian scholar Mary Kawena Pukui (1895–1986) noted, is a general name for Hawaii’s folk dances. While it is impossible to point to one origin story for hula, multiple origin stories for the dances are included in various Hawaiian myths. In addition to hula’s beginnings, these myths also explain the creation of the island chain and its indigenous inhabitants, revealing an interconnected relationship between hula, the land and Hawaii’s people. With the establishment of the tourist industry in Hawaii at the turn of the twentieth century, hula became commodified and gendered as female for vacationing tourists. New performance contexts established in the late twentieth century, however, challenged this commodification of hula, as Native Hawaiian practitioners sought to reclaim the ancient hula traditions that seemed to be erased through the ‘hula girl’s’ acculturated dance. Hula competitions and concert hula productions set alternative parameters for defining and performing traditional hula styles. Both draw on hula’s established history of incorporating hybrid musical, compositional, bodily, choreographic and narrative influences into its traditional performance. Such hybridization encapsulates hula’s various encounters with modernity and its influences, becoming a flash point for producing cosmopolitan Native identities and for capitalizing on tradition.