Hawaiian hula: a dance for old and young

On stage and off stage, Hawaiian hula dancers range from very young to quite old

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.
drawing of a woman dancing on the deck of an apartment, a city in sunrise in the distance. Words, DANCE OF THE DAY

12 thoughts on “Hawaiian hula: a dance for old and young

  1. josaiawrites says:

    I danced hula years ago and loved it. I agree with you. It can include all ages and each offers it’s own gifts. It’s a sacred and beautiful dance. Wishing you aloha.

  2. granny1947 says:

    Looks lovely.
    One would need the music.
    As my music only comes through on my earphones, am not sure how I would go about it.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Someone will show you, I’m sure.

  3. Bravo to all the dancers, especially the teenies who have a natural rhythm that we all once had before self consciousness took it away!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      And when I see those adorable children joining in, it makes me relax even more into the dance too.

      1. There was a youngster up on stage that I recognised who seemed to be dancing with great skill and interpretation!

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Can you see our lovely graceful teenager, just behind me in the dance?

      1. I can now. Very talented, but also I love the little girl in the gingham dress who is mimicking the hand movements with great skill.

  4. Your performance is wonderful! I’ve looked up a local hula club (about 2.5 hours from where I live) to begin inquiries on pricing and see if it’s workable after the New Year…thanks!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I do hope you find an event or a group to start you off. May you find the joy of it.

  5. judithhb says:

    Thanks Rachel. I’ve never heard of your group. It is amazing that one can live in the city Lake Wellington which is quite small and be unaware of many of the things that go on around us

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Judith, there are so many! I love that.

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