Hula Posture and Teachings
The Eyes Have It
When we dance hula the body becomes the outward expression of all of the levels of meanings in the text - both the inner meaning (called kaona) and the outer meaning reflected in the surface understanding of the poetry. We use our entire body to sway like the wind, reach for the sun or the moon, incline to the earth or the sea. As we personify the text, let us never underestimate the importance of the eyes. My teacher, Bella, always said that if the dancer doesn't demonstrate interest in her own gestures by looking at them, the audience will get the message that they aren't worth noticing as well. Our eyes must follow the important gestures in our dance.
How that is done effectively may be a bit of a mystery. When we are in the hula position with extended arm, our entire head should be turned slightly in that same direction, the eyes should not be fastened on the extended hand, but rather gaze a foot or so above the extended hand and focused about 100 yards beyond. We want to appear to be gazing at the object we are gesturing about. Indeed, we should be "seeing" that object in our minds eye as we dance. Sometimes we look more directly at the hands. For instance, when we gesture a tree, or a moon or sun, a flower - any specific object - we will look at the gesture itself. But for more general terms we will look in the direction of the gesture and 100 yards beyond. Some gestures will take our eyes directly to the audience. This is an effective way to engage your audience. If this unnerves you, look about a foot above the heads of the audience. It will have the same effect.
Remember where the eyes go the attention will follow.
It's All About the KNEES
When we think of the hula we think of the swaying hula hips. However, the movement does not originate from the hips. The hips sway as a result of the shifting of the weight from one foot to the other in the 'aiha'a, or bent knee position. In this position the knees are the engine that moves the hips as the weight changes.
There are several important things to remember about the knees. Foremost is that hula works with the natural structure of the body - it merely exaggerates the natural movement. The position of strength for the body to carry or lift weight is with the knees bent and the knee caps turned outward. Think of the weight lifter. Feet under the shoulders, toes turned out, deep knee bend and using the leg and midsection to hoist the weight up. What would happen to his knees if his knees came together when he lifted rather than his knees pointing outward? He would rip his knee muscles!
We use that same position of strength for the hula. Feet directly under shoulders - no wider, no narrower. Toes pointing out slightly farther than the heels. Knees always pointing away from one another. The weight is carried on the outside of the foot, so that the arches do not roll inward causing the knees to come toward each other. With each and every movement the knees are facing slightly outward.At no point do the knees come together in a pigeon-toed way. It is not only supremely ugly, it is very harmful for your knees and will cause injury in time - as little time as two or three years. The inside of the knee-cap is simply not designed to support that kind of weight. This is true also when one goes all the way down to the floor with the movement. Feet close together, knees slightly apart and facing outward.
If you take care of your body in this way, your knees will support you painlessly through all of your years of dancing - forevermore. Wishing you joyous knee's-outward dancing!
Shifting your Weight
Aloha Nui my Haumana,
As we move into a new year of 'shifting' times, I'm reminded of the shift in weight necessary to achieving and expressing the beautiful and natural flow of hula. Check yourself to see if you are concentrating on moving your hips when you need to be concentrating on shifting your weight.
Hula is a dance form rooted in the natural way the body moves. When you bend your knees, shift your weight completely with every step and let your hip follow behind your weight shift. It should require very little effort. Your muscles might get tired at first because you are building new ones. Hang in there as this discomfort will go away soon.
Always shift your weight by putting your weight first on the heel while you roll your hip off the opposite side ...by rolling off of your toe. It's easier to understand by taking notice of how you walk: the weight is on the left foot, the right foot moves forward and the heel goes down first. The weight then moves from the heel, rolling off of the toe on the left foot, as it prepares to move forward.
Examine this natural movement carefully and then apply it to your kaholo, your lewa - all of the hula steps. Each move is full and natural. Relax your body so that it flows with the natural rhythm of the music or the ipu. Are you ready to try?
Sending you a heart-felt mahalo for your support. As we begin 2009, remember to slow down and return to those things that are sacred to you as you realign with the energies of love and Earth. In gratitude.
Aloha my Haumana (students),
Posture! Posture! POSTURE! This is your ancient "key" to dancing hula with stature and grace. Keep your head regally high with your back arched. Your 'lift' is best achieved when it comes from the ribcage area. Try it now. Do you feel your stomach muscles tightening? Your core strength and command of advanced hula movements will come from a deep connection with your abdomen.
PRACTICE consciously as you check your reflection in a mirror. Be consistent and it will become natural and a part of who you are. Remember to "walk tall" in all that you do, are and will be. Blessings to all.