“Those in whose memories were stored the mythologies, traditions, genealogies, proverbial wisdom, and poetry,” 1939.

The History Of The Hula Dance

(From Hawaiian Tourfax Annual)

The hula stood for very much to the ancient Hawaiian; it was to him  in place of our concert hall and lecture room our opera and theater, and thus became one of his chief means of social enjoyment. Besides this, it kept the communal imagination in living touch with the nation’s legendary past. The hula had songs proper to itself, but it found a mine of inexhaustible wealth in the epics and wonder myths that celebrated the doings of the volcano goddess Pele and her compeers. Thus in the cantillations of the old time hula we find a ready made anthology that includes every species of composition in the whole range of Hawaiian poetry.

The most telling record of a people’s intimate life is the record which it unconsciously makes in its songs. The record which the Hawaiian people have left of themselves is full and specific. When, therefore, we ask what emotions stirred the old Hawaiians as he approached the great themes of life and death, his attitude toward nature, we shall find our answer in the songs and prayers and recitations of the hula.

The hula, it is true, has been unfortunate in the mode and manner of its introduction to us moderns. An institution of divine, that is, religious, origin, the hula in modern times has wandered so far that foreign and critical esteem has come to associate it with the riotours and passionate ebullitions of Polynesian kings. Whatever indelicacy attaches in modern times to some of the gestures and contortions of the hula dancers, the old time hula songs in large measure were untainted with grossness.

If one comes to the study of the hula and its songs in the spirit of a censorious moralist he will find nothing for him; if as a pure ethnologist, he will take pleasure in pointing out the physical resemblance of the Hawaiian dance to the langourous race of the nautch girls, of the geisha, and other oriental dancers. But if he comes as a student and lover of human nature, back of the sensuous posturings, in the emotional language of the songs he will find himself entering the playground of the human race.

The hula was a religious service, in which poetry, music, pantomine, and the dance lent themselves, under the forms of dramatic art, to the refreshment of men’s minds. Its view of life was idyllic, and it gave itself to the celebration of those mythical times when men and women were as gods. As to subject matter, its warp was spun largely from the bowels of the old time mythology into cords through which the race maintained vital connection with its mysterious past. Interwoven with these, forming the woof, were threads of a thousand hues and of many fabrics, representing the imaginations of the poet, the speculations of the philosopher, the aspirations of many a thirsty soul, as well as the ravings and flame-colored pictures of the sensualist, the mutterings and incantations of the kahuna, the mysteries and paraphernalia of Polynesian mythology, the annals of the nation’s history—the material, in fact, which in another nation and under different circumstances would have gone to the making of its poetry, its drama, its opera, its literature.

The gods, great and small, superior and inferior, whom the devotees and practitioners of the hula worshipped and sought to placate, were many; but the goddess Laka was the one to whom they looked as the patron. She was known as the head teacher of the terpsichorean art and its one of the prayers is besought to take possession of the worshipper, to inspire him in all his parts and faculties—voice, hands, feet, and the whole body. Laka seems to have been a friend, but not a relative of the numerous Pele family.

In ancient times the hula to a large extent was a creature of royal support. The chiefs took the initiative to the promotion of the people’s communistic sports and of the hula. We must not imagine, though, that the hula was a thing only of kings’ courts and chiefish residences. It had another and democratic side. But with the hula all roads led to the king’s court. It was at the king’s court that were gathered the bards and those skilled in songs, those in whose memories were stored the mythologies, traditions, genealogies, proverbial wisdom, and poetry that warmed by emotion, was the stuff from which spun the songs of the hula.

The court of the alii was a vortex that drew not only the bards and men of lore, but the gay and fashionable route of pleasure seekers, the young men and women of shapely form and gracious presence, the flower and pick of Hawaii’s youth. From these were selected the ones to take part in the hula.

The performers of the hula were divided into two classes, the olapa—agile ones, and the hoolapa—steadfast ones. The young men and women were assigned to the part of the olapa, while the older ones took the other part, handling the chants and heavier instruments of rhythm. The dancers were drilled by the kumu (hula master).

The costume of the hula dancer was much the same for both sexes, its chief article a simple short skirt about the waist (the pa-u). Putting on the hula costume was a ceremony accompanied by chants. First came the anklets of whale teeth, bone, shell work, fiber stuffs and what not.

The short skirt, pa-u, was the most important piece of attire worn by the Hawaiian female. As an article of daily wear it represented many stages of evolution beyond the primitive fig leaf, being fabricated from a great variety of materials furnished by the garden of nature. In its simplest terms it was a mere fringe of vegetable fibers. When used as a full dress costume of a dancing girl on ceremonious occasion, it took on more elaborate forms and was frequently of tapa, a fabric the finest of which would not have shamed the wardrobe of an empress.

In the costuming of the hula girl the same variety obtained as in the dress of a woman of rank. Sometimes it would be only a close set fringe of ribbons stripped from the bark of the hau, the ti leaf or banana fiber, or a fine rush, strung upon a thong to encircle the waist. In its most elaborate and formal style the pa-u consisted of a strip of fine tapa several yards long and of width to reach nearly to the knees.

There was a wreath to crown the head and another for the neck and shoulders. It was not the custom in olden times to overwhelm the body with floral decorations, nor was every flower that blows acceptable as an offering. The gods were jealous and nice in their tastes, pleased only with flowers indigenous to the soil—the ilima, the lehua, the maile, etc.

Gesture is a voiceless speech, a shorthand dramatic picture. The Hawaiians were adept in this sort of art. Hand and foot, face and eye, all worked in such harmony that the man spoke, not alone with his vocal organs, but all over from head to foot, every part adding its emphasis to the utterance.

The hands of the hula dancer are ever going out in gesture, her body swaying and pivoting itself in attitudes of expression. Her whole physique is a living and moving picture of feeling, sentiment and passion. The art of gesture was one of the most important branches taught by the hula master. Not only are there mimetic and imitative gestures; but also symbolic gestures that can be catalogued almost definitely into a language of motion.—Nathaniel B. Emerson’s “Unwritten Literature of Hawaii.”

(Hoku o Hawaii, 4/26/1939, p. 3)

The History Of The Hula Dance

Ka Hoku o Hawaii, Volume XXXIII, Number 52, Aoao 3. April 26, 1939.

Aia i ka la’i ulalaeho, 1936.


Fred W. Ellers, chief engineer during the past eight years at station KYA, San Francisco, arrived in Hilo last week, with Mrs. Ellers and Winfield S. Hancock, to take charge of Hilo’s new radio station, KHBC.

The new station will open early next month. Mrs. Ellers will direct the programs. Mr. Hancock will be program announcer and will write the continuities. Additional personnel will be picked from local talent.

Ambitious local aspirants who wish to become radio stars will have the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities by reporting to the studio on Kalanianaole Drive.

(Hoku o Hawaii, 4/15/1936, p. 1)


Ka Hoku o Hawaii, Volume XXVII, Number 39, Aoao 1. April 15, 1936.

Kohala Hula Club and Emma Moniz, 1936.


The Resurrection of Kaha, a Hawaiian tableau directed by Mrs. Emma Moniz, of Kohala, will be staged next Saturday, April 18, at the Halai community Hall, Hilo, under the auspices of the Kohala Studio, beginning at 7:30 p. m.

Besides the tableau, based on a native legend, Mrs. Moniz will stage a program of ancient and modern hula dances featuring several of her most talented pupils. There will be some 40 performers, all of them from Kohala, including a number of Filipino, Japanese and Portuguese dancing girls, besides Hawaiian.

Two novelty number by Eko [? Eiko] Takata, four-year old Japanese girl, and Elsie Adana, two-year old Filipino girl, will be featured. The program will be followed by a dance, with Kualii’s orchestra furnishing the music.

(Hoku o Hawaii, 4/15/1936, p. 1)


Ka Hoku o Hawaii, Volume XXII, Number 39, Aoao 1. April 15, 1936.

More on music with Joseph Kalima and Albert Nahale-a, 1935.

Some people of Hilo are starting a Glee Club from amongst the members of the Executive Committee of Hilo nei, from church members to other friends who are coming together for the purpose of singing here in Hilo.

Others from the Churches of Haili have been asked and some expert singers also have been asked to join with these people who have given themselves for this activity. Joseph Kalima and Albert Nahale-a have come aboard.

(Hoku o Hawaii, 10/22/1935, p. 2)

Ke hoala mai nei...

Ka Hoku o Hawaii, Buke XXVII, Helu 17, Aoao 2. Okatoba 22, 1935.

Hula to entertain the sick, 1945.

A Celebration

On the afternoon of Sunday, June 3, the Pa Hula of Albert Nahale-a arrived at Puumaile Hospital to bring good will to the patients.

There was word that there was going to be a visit from a Hula Troupe to entertain the patients; it was asked who was coming, and in the afternoon of Saturday, it was clear which Hula Troupe was coming.

A little before 3:00 P. M., the waking bell was sounded. The people got up and got ready for when the Hula Group would arrive. Nahale-a’s people came, and it was but a short time after 3:00 P. M. The announcer voice rang forth announcing that it was ready for the activities to proceed.

They started their program with the performance of the song Ike hou ana i ka nani o Hilo,¹ and after that there were Hawaiian Hula and joint singing, and hula of this era, duets and trios.

The patients showed their enthusiasm by applauding.

When the close of the program was near, the head of the Hula Troupe announced that the day fell on the birthday of the Editor [Solomon Anakalea] of the Hoku o Hawaii, therefore they sang the song, “Happy Birthday” for this editor. He was 62 years old. I thank God for giving me these years.

Following this, the festivities were let out, and the members of the Hui Lokahi of Puumaile stood and gave their thanks to Albert Nahale-a and his Hula Troupe.

However, it was the solo singing performance of Mr. Joseph Kalima that was most admired by some. As well as the duets performed with his daughter.

This program was for some something that would not be forgotten in their weakened state.


¹Perhaps this is the mele that begins:

Ike hou ana i ka nani o Hilo,
I ka uluwehiwehi i ka lehua,
Lei hoohihi a ka malihini,
Mea ole i ke kono a ke aloha.

(Hoku o Hawaii, 6/20/1945, p. 1)

Aha Hoolaulea

Ka Hoku o Hawaii, Volume XL, Number 8, Aoao 1. Iune 20, 1945.

Pele makes appearance atop Mokuaweoweo, 1914.


On the evening of Wednesday the burning of lava above the crater of Mokuaweoweo was clearly known. At the arrival of the steamship Mauna Kea in the port of Awapaakai on Maui, on the Wednesday eve, the glow of fire atop Mauna Loa was witnessed by her passengers, and the fires above the Mountain was soon learned. These past days, word of the very intense fires above Mauna Loa has arrived, yet it did not pour over the side of the Mountain. However it was clear to the folks of Kawaihae and North and South Kona the power of the spouting of the fires above, and in the estimation of some people, the strength of the lava shooting above the crater was perhaps several hundred feet. The skies on the Kona side was illuminated, and it is being watched for where the lava will erupt from the mountain as is usual when eruptions occur atop Mokuaweoweo. Some people think that the strongest eruption will occur on the Kona side of the crater, and some predict that the flow will indeed happen on the Kona side. But the return of the person watching for the lava flow of Kilauea is awaited for being that he is now atop Mauna Loa.

(Hoku o Hawaii, 12/3/1914, p. 2)



Ka Hoku o Hawaii, Buke 9, Helu 26, Aoao 2. Decemaba 3, 1914.

Further information on articles, 2014 and beyond.

I was just thinking that if anyone has any supplementary information on any of the posts appearing here that they might be holding on to and that they might want to share, that it might be helpful if they respond to that particular post with what they know, or even with questions they have (who knows, someone might have the answer). Or if perhaps one of the posts from the past sparks some recollection or conversation just amongst yourselves, that too i believe is worthwhile.

Miss Kuaana Nathaniel starts a pa hula, 1945.


Miss Kuaana Nathaniel has begun a pa hula that is opened every Wednesday evenings beginning from 7:00 and ending at 8:00 in the evening.

She is a youth that is proficient in the Hawaiian hula, and should anyone desire their children to gain this knowledge, go and meet and talk with Kuaana Nathaniel on Alae Street on the premises of Halai.

(Hoku o Hawaii, 10/10/1945, p. 1)


Ka Hoku o Hawaii, Volume XL, Number 22, Aoao 1. Okatoba 10, 1945.

The Queen visits Hilo, 1914.


Queen Liliuokalani arrived here in Hilo in the afternoon of this past Sunday, and she is an honored guest of Mrs. Aima Nawahi these days. The Royal one of Hawaii is in good health. She will return to Honolulu the following Friday.

This Thursday, at 10 a. m. until 12 noon, our Queen graciously has granted loving audience with all those who go to see her at the home of Mrs. Aima Nawahi. The members of all the Hawaiian Associations of Hilo nei also want to see their beloved Queen. This audience is open to all the people here in Hilo. Continue reading