The other day our Halau stood outside of the studio waiting to enter. We watched, impatiently, as the famous Zumba class came to an end. My girls asked, "what are we waiting for? We were suppose to start 5 minutes ago" Which was true, but we waited and slowly moved into the room. The Zumba instructor was very kind and apologize for the schedule mis-communication and altered her future classes. She then turned and asked me, "So is this your Hula class?" and without a doubt I said, "Yes, it is!" She looked around the room at the ladies and said "Oh, that's so cool. I should come and try to shake it..." and the rest is all a blur to me because "shake it" was not what I wanted to hear.
As the Zumba instructor left the room one of my 'olapa came up to me and said, "This isn't a class?" and I said, "Huh?" She looked at me with so much pride and said, "Yup, this isn't a class. Hula is a way of life. Hula comes from here." as she touched her chest. For that brief moment I was so proud! I was so proud to look at my 'olapa and know that hula for them isn't a "dance class" or just a "class". That all these months they've been listening to me. That Hula for them is not just dance, it's a way of life. It has deeper meaning, deeper understanding, kaona - hidden meaning, and most of all hula comes from within. We generate our strength for Hula from all the elements on earth and we portray the many stories from our heart.
Hula for me is most definitely a way of life. Hula, I believe, identifies me. Hula is the one thing that I can turn to in my life and know that no matter what is happening in my life or around me, I'll be okay. When I dance hula, I'm taken to that very place we dance about, that moment when the song was composed and put into a sweet melody. The mele (song) takes all my cares away and back to the very reason why I dance hula; pride, honor, cherish a culture and it is my way of life.
An 'Olapa (hula dancer) should always believe that hula is his or her way of life. The discipline that comes with hula shapes us as individuals. We may not believe that at first, but as we grow in hula we find ourselves always turning to hula for inspiration, strength, or to simply take us away. Hula in its most simple way can take us to a waterfall that in that moment is just a waterfall, but the koana of that mele could mean love, understanding, power, strength or the love that is shared between a parent and a child.
Hula is so much more than what we read about or see. Hula isn't cellophane skirts and coconut bras. Hula isn't about showing skin and only having pretty girls on stage. Hula isn't just hard work and too much commitment. Hula isn't Blue Hawai'i. Hula is not about "shaking it." Hula is not something to brag about. Hula is not easy and most of all Hula is not JUST a dance class.
Hula is that feeling deep down inside, that understanding that there is so much more to a story. Hula is the moment a composer decides to sing about love, pain, hurt, searching, etc. Hula is one of our most traditional keepers of the Hawaiian culture. Hula is Hawai'i. Hula is humble. Hula is kaona. Hula identifies who I am and who I hope to be. Hula is a way of life.