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Hawaiian hula dances were created as a form of worship. In early Hawaii only men would hula, and they would only hula after long training sessions and only during worship services. The hula has always been incredibly expressive. It is a dance that can often be a form of storytelling. People told stories sort of like a play or opera. After years of having the hula be a completely and solely religious experience, it turned to entertainment for young and old alike.
Women were eventually allowed to do the hula dance. They were bound to get involved. After all, the dance boasts smooth swaying motions of the hips, upper bodies, and legs. After women got involved with the dance, men started a type of hula dance they could reserve for their own. It was called a luau. The luau was actually more like professional wrestling than the traditional hula dance as everyone knew it. Men would punch each other, throw spears, and even fight viciously. This type of hula never lasted, however, because too many people thought it was evil.
The hula took on new meaning within the past 200 years. It evolved into a special dance during which participants would wear leaf skirts and flowers. Dancers had to learn to precisely control every part of their bodies. They had to listen to the music and practice for hours on end in order to completely become one with the music they’re dancing to. The hands of the hula dancers are what makes the hula dancing stories. If the dancers move their hands violently, it means a battle has ensued. If the hands are flowing, they signify a softer story. Watching the hands are like watching a story being unfolded right before your eyes.
The music that corresponds with the hula dance we know today is highlighted by a percussion instrument of sorts that is made of two gourds connected. Participants thump on a mat stage and slap the gourds with their hands. A large bass drum made out of a tree log is beat in the background and creates the underlying rhythm that supports the hula music.