Chủ Nhật, 8 tháng 7, 2012

On a star spangled night in Maui we dined Hawaiian-style on lauhala mats. By the light of the moon and flickering candles we enjoyed a traditional feast – Kalua pig cooked in an imu (underground oven), Pulehu steak, Island Crab salad, Pohole salad, baked mahimihi, lomi lomi salmon and poi – served by brawny young men in flowered skirts.

Following the feast we were to see an amazing display of hula with accompanying oli (chant) and mele (song). Using eyes, hand and hips in a symphony of sensuality it was easy to understand why the island women had proved irresistibly intoxicating to the sailors of long ago.

But there is more to the hula than the undeniable sensuality of its movements. That night at the luau we were to see the spiritual dance that rests at the very heart of the Hawaiian culture. Once performed as an act of worship for their many gods and goddesses, hula is also used for story telling in the oral tradition of the Hawaiians. In the past the dance with its religious affiliation was performed to honor significant events in the life of a chief; his birth, his naming, and finally to celebrate his life at death. 

On a raised grassy platform beneath a full moon, dancers, dressed in Ti leaf skirts, coconut breast covers with flowers in their hair and necks encircled with orchid and frangipani leis, cast a spell over us all with their interpretation of the traditional hula.

We were to see hula in all its variety; the sacred and traditional version, its modern day counterpart, as well as that more constrained hula adopted to appease the sensitivities of the missionaries. To me it seemed as if the dancers were smiling inwardly as they swayed onto the raised grassy platform in long non-revealing dresses, their movements decidedly prim.

Did the missionaries really think they had finally curbed the exuberant passions of the Hawaiians when they first witnessed this unexpectedly modest display?

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Sunday 8th July, 2012

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