Origins of Hula
Before Western contact, hula was danced for social enjoyment but its chants also preserved epic tales, myths, history and philosophy. A dancer's rigorous training and performance were taken seriously with dancers paid and materially supported by the ruling ali`i.
Multiple tales describe the mythic beginnings of hula but the most-often heard is probably that of Pele and her sister Hi`iaka. In this rendering, the first hula was born when Pele begged her sisters to dance and sing for her. Only Hi`iaka stepped forward to perform. She danced for Pele using movements she’d practiced with her good friend Hopoe.
In the Hawaiian pantheon, Hi`iaka is joined by Kapo and Laka as the spiritual patrons of hula. Also a sister of Pele and associated with healing and sorcery, Kapo could be caring or vengeful. Laka is more prominently associated with hula and was symbolized in the halau (hula school) as a block of lama wood placed on an altar and swathed in yellow kapa. Laka was sister and wife to Lono, god of agriculture, and hula was a major part of celebrations during Makahiki, the harvest festival.
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