Hawaiian hula is a dance for old and young. Wherever it happens, you see different generations dancing together. The video, above, has young and old dancing in the open air. The video stops abruptly, but you see enough to get the typical feeling of happiness and grace. Maybe to get up and start dancing yourself in the privacy of your own home?
Dancers on that day were aged from 8 months (I’m guessing) to 82 years (moi). That’s a normal age range when the ukulele gets going. Very old dancers in Hawaiian hula are mainstream, and some are leaders and cultural icons. On the other hand, as always, little children show us the way.
I feel so lucky to have found the Wellington Hawaiian Dance group. We dance for the joy of it, and everyone is welcome. As an outsider, I guess that this joyful inclusiveness is part of the spirit of Hawaiian hula.
The event was on the waterfront at Wellington’s Lantern Festival in spring. That’s the kind of event where our group belongs: casual, community, sunshine, local, amateur — and it happened right at the edge of our own exceedingly beautiful harbour.
The hula in the video is called Kuhio Bay. It sings the praises of a beautiful bay in Hawaii. Words and music are by Keliana Bishaw and Johnny Noble. The delicious voice is that of Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole. Our dance leader, front centre, is Liora Noy, who studied traditional Hawaiian dance for years and is authorised to teach. The video is the work of Ilan Noy — thank you both!
Why is Hawaiian hula good for old people?
I am making this up after observing so many marvellous older Hawaiian dancers, and noticing my own experience. (Of course different styles of hula can be less kindly.)
- It’s low impact. No jumping or thumping: happy knees!
- Most dances are fairly slow and flowing, presumably getting the life-force/ energy/ chi/ blood /oxygen (whatever) pumping through our bodies
- Hula is all about expression and interpretation, and older people are good at this
- Hawaiian dance is soothing, joyful, and social: good for our mental health
- We usually all dance the same moves in formation: one less dimension to confuse us
- Even so, Hawaiian hula is complex enough to give our brains a workout. Good for memory, balance, and coordination.