Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hula Workshop!!

Hawaii is a special port for several reasons. It is the first time the students have set foot on American soil in at least three months. It is also a warm and sunny port after several ports of chilly winter weather (everyone remembers the snow in Japan!), which was quite a treat for the entire community. While there might be the temptation to find one of the many sandy beaches and camp out for a few day, the SASers were sure to explore this port as thoroughly as all of the others. They visited the Arizona battleship, snorkeled, skydived, ascended Mauna Kea and explored the observatory. They also learned to hula!
A small group set out on the short trip from the ship to the studio in Wakiki, where a hula instructor, Germaine, gave them a brief overview of hula, and then taught them a short dance complete when some basic hula movements.
The first thing the group learned is that there are two types of hula: traditional and modern. Traditional, or Hula kahiko, is performed to chanting with percussion instruments to keep time. This form of hula is more rigid and has a distinctly spiritual feel to it. The modern form is called hula auana, and it is a more relaxed dance accompanied by guitars, ukuleles and singing. The dance the group learned was performed to a Hawaiian Christmas carol that had a slow enough tempo for everyone to keep up.
All of the students on the trip commented on how hula is more difficult than it appears to be. In hula, there is an emphasis on fluidity and grace, so even when the dancers are moving very quickly their easy smiles and light hands create the impression of ease. The group soon found out that hula is hard work! The entire dance must performed while in a semi-squat (making it a good workout). Also, the best hula dancers focus on perfecting even the most minute details of their performance, from maintaining a bright smile to moving your hands correctly. "You'll work your entire life on your 'hula hands,'" Germaine told the group. The hand movements tell a story, so it's no surprise that the end of the class was spent trying to mimic the motions precisely.
The final lesson of the day was the "Aloha" welcome. This is a series of hula movements meant to welcome guests and make them feel at home. It was the perfect way to wrap up the lesson. Afterwards, the group had enough time to sneak down to the beach to watch the sunset. Nani!

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