Nothing says Hawaii like hula dancing. This ancient dance tradition was brought over by the Polynesians to the Hawaiian Islands as a form of entertainment for the high chiefs and a way to worship the gods. Many traditions of hula have been altered in recent decades, like the lei (a traditional flower necklace), which was intended as a gift to the gods that dancers were not allowed to wear after their routine, and the costume, which consisted of topless women wearing grass skirts and men wearing loin cloths. But despite becoming a more family-friendly event for tourists, the art form of hula dancing hasn’t lost its beauty.
Traditional female dancers wore the everyday p???, or wrapped skirt, but were topless. Today this form of dress has been altered. As a sign of lavish display, the p??? might be much longer than the usual length of tapa, or barkcloth, which was just long enough to go around the waist. Visitors report seeing dancers swathed in many yards of tapa, enough to increase their circumference substantially. Dancers might also wear decorations such as necklaces, bracelets, and anklets, as well as many lei (in the form of headpieces (leipo’o), necklaces, bracelets, and anklets (kupe’e)), and other accessories.
Traditional male dancers wore the everyday malo, or loincloth. Again, they might wear bulky malo made of many yards of tapa. They also wore necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and lei.
The materials for the lei worn in performance were gathered in the forest, after prayers to Laka and the forest gods had been chanted.
The lei and tapa worn for sacred hula were considered imbued with the sacredness of the dance, and were not to be worn after the performance. Lei were typically left on the small altar to Laka found in every h?lau, as offerings.
The mele of hula ?auana are generally sung as if they were popular music. A lead voice sings in a major scale, with occasional harmony parts.
The subject of the songs is as broad as the range of human experience. People write mele hula ?auana to comment on significant people, places or events or simply to express an emotion or idea.
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