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Hawaiian Renaissance by George S. Kanahele
One of the more exciting aspect of the Renaissance is the revival of the hula kahiko and male hula. Nobody can help but be impressed with the dancers and performances today of the ancient hula, but it was not too long ago that Mary Kawena Pukui predicted that by now there would be no more hula. It was in 1946 that she stated, as quoted in the Honolulu Advertiser, that the "real hula was dying out, and that there were only about a dozen Hawaiians who could dance the hula as it should be danced according to the old Hawaiian custom. She predicted that within 320 years the tradition will have vanished into the realm of memory."
Well, I think in this instance she would gladly recant, because she has played a part in keeping g the tradition alive. So have many others from Ilalaole to Akoni and Ha'aheo, from Lokalia Montgomery and Iolani to Kaui Zuttemeister and Edith Kanakaole. But, most important to the Renaissance is the cadre of young kumu hula who have taught hundreds and who will yet teach hundreds more in the years to come. While I don't have any comparative figures, I am prepared to wager that there are more young people learning and dancing the ancient hula in the '70s than during any other decade of this century. The evidence may be gleaned form the number of participants in the Merry Monarch Festival, the King Kamehameha Celebration hula competitions, and other contests. In fact, there are more hula competitions today than at any other time in recent memory. If you ned more evidence, look at the figures of the attendance at the annual dance conferences of the State Council on Hawaiian Heritage. In ten years they have increased nearly a thousand-fold.
Of course, what really turns on many people is the return of the male dancer to his rightful place. I remember as a kid in the not too remote past no local boy would be caught dead doing the hula for fear of being called a sissy. Nowadays you may risk a punch in the mouth for calling a male cancer, who may just be on the footfall team, a sissy. Perhaps, the most forceful evidence off how far we've come is the picture of Russ Francis, Arnold Morgado, and other football players who did the hula during the half time show at last year's Hula Bowl.
Male dancers also have become the favorites of local audiences, both men and women, although the squeals of glee I hear when the men come on stage wearing a modern style malo come mostly from the wahines. John Lake tells me that invariably it's the male dancers who get the biggest applause.
It is important to note that today's interest is greater for the ancient than the modern or hapa-haole hula. The more traditional the dance, the keener, the interest. It's as if people want to get as close as they possibly can to the first hula that Kaka did. And because of this, I think the Hawaiians have finally retaken the hula from the tourists. Since the 1920s the hula was sort of aggrandized by the tourism promoters in Hawaii to advertise the charm of the Islands. Almost every ad, for example, showed a smiling hula lassie. In fact, in the 1930s "teaching hula" to tourists became " big business." So reported the Star-Bulletin in July, 1937. It said that there were "as many as eight large hula studios and numerous teacher,, " and that a good part of the business was coming from the tourists, "99.44 percent of whom wanted to learn the hula." The haolefication of the hula, like hapa-haole music, was very much an accommodation to the tourists.
The tourists are really irrelevant to today's hula revival. It is all native, made in Hawaii by, for and of Hawaiians.
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