DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The wahine of Keolalaulani Halau 'Olapa O Laka held up their maile lei during a sunrise perfomance Saturday at a scenic point off the Pali Highway overlooking Kaneohe. The halau, led by veteran kumu hula Aloha Dalire, is preparing for the Merrie Monarch Festival, where the dancers will perform this hula, "Ipo Poli Anuanu," in the 'auana competition. CLICK FOR LARGE
Art of hula defies classification
The Merrie Monarch Festival -- one of the world's greatest celebrations of the art and pageantry of hula -- begins Thursday in Hilo. To mark the occasion, writer, researcher and hula student Nanette Naioma Napoleon has reviewed back issues of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin to unearth some anecdotes related to the art form.
» More elements from hula's past
A CRISIS almost occurred in the professional hula industry in 1945, when the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Division of Wage Analysis, attempted to establish wage standards for professional hula dancers.
KITV will provide total coverage of the 44th annual Merrie Monarch Festival from Hilo, beginning at 6 each night:
Thursday: Miss Aloha Hula competition
Friday: Hula kahiko (ancient) group competition
Saturday: Hula 'auana (contemporary) group competition and awards ceremony
» For complete lists of Miss Aloha Hula contestants and the competing wahine and kane halau, visit www.thehawaiichannel.com
» Live streaming of the event can be viewed at www.TheHawaiiChannel.com.
In order to do this, the department first came up with two classifications for dancers, using extremely specific and colorful language.
"Class A, Female" dancers were described as "usually a young, but inexperienced worker, (who) through the medium of hula, attempts to portray and interpret portions of the early history of the Hawaiian people. The worker performs barefooted and usually scantily attired. The most common apparel being the ti leaf dress or sarong encircling the shapely trunk with bare skin between top of garb and a band of 6 or more inches wide, which sometimes restricts short migrations of the voluptuous pulchritudinous projections appended to the upper forward side of the worker."
The description goes on to say how the feet are usually placed, how the body turns and how emphasis is placed on hand movements and "whirls" of the hips.
The "Class B, Female" dancer is described as "fully trained, experienced and possessed with intense desire, but due to the accumulated torso bulges, stiffened joints and many Hawaiian moons, the spread has greatly moderated. The worker uses less of the foot-work, knee-bend and rotary movements of the hips, but instead, considerable emphasis is directed on the straight forward and backward pull and push motion which is interspersed with the 'Cuban Grind.' The hands are used, but appear to have forgotten much of the history. Usually fully clothed."
STAR-BULLETIN / 2006
Bernice Alohanamakanamaikalanimai Davis-Lim won the Miss Aloha Hula title last year. CLICK FOR LARGE
After these descriptions were published in the newspaper, and a public outcry arose, Harold A. Seering, former Hawaiian War Labor Board chairman, admitted that plans for controlling "inflationary spirals scaling dancers' wages" had collapsed.
Seering said the plan started as an inter-office joke and somehow appeared in the newspapers. He went on to say that "any Hawaiian knows grading hula girls is impossible -- even though we are seriously advocating a strict scientific job of evaluation."