Friday, October 5, 2012

The Halau

The Halau -
A hālau is Hawaiian word meaning a school, academy, or group. Literally, the word means "a branch from which many leaves grow." Today a hālau usually describes a hula school (hālau hula).

The teacher at the hālau is the kumu hula, where kumu means source of knowledge, or literally just teacher. Often you will find that there is a hierarchy in hula schools - starting with the kumu (teacher), alaka'i (leader), kokua (helpers), and then the 'olapa (dancers) or haumana (students).

The word was also used for the long open-air houses, often constructed at the shores, where the instruction took place.

The responsibility of each hula dancer is to develop a deep sense of humility, commitment, dedication, discipline, respect, and love for others. It is equally important for each student to develop a good attitude and self-respect.
The goal of the Halau is to share the love of Hula and Hawaiian traditions as inspired and preserved from our Kupuna , and to teach from the heart,so it will carry forward for future generations.

“I mohala no ka lehua i ke ke'ekehi 'ia e ka ua“

Translation: The Lehua blossom unfolds when the rains tread on it.
Explanation: People respond better to gentle words than to scoldings.

You see Hula is not just a dance, hula it is a way of life to which many kumu and haumana dedicate their lives to the study of Hula. To be chosen as a student of hula is a great honor. Both the kumu, and haumana are highly respected and often make a life long commitment to the Hula.

Training in a hula school of old was strict, with adherence to kapu (forbidden) rules, being stringent. The kapu varied through the different schools, however certain codes of conduct such as personal cleanliness, not cutting hair or nails, abstinence from sexual activity, and restrictions of certain foods were usual. The rules of today are not quite that stringent but they are strict.

The study of Hula is not just dancing, it is the study of the Hawaiian Culture, Language, History, Legends, Traditions of the Hawaiian people. Kumu Hula in the present day are referred to using the title "kumu hula". This wasn't always the case, however. In the old days, a kumu hula was an individual who had undergone extensive training that culminated in an `uniki graduation ceremony. Nowadays, anyone who teaches classes may call himself or herself a kumu hula. And anyone who directs a halau tends to be automatically called a kumu hula, regardless of whether or not the teacher considers himself or herself to be a kumu hula.

For those who are involved in a Halau, as Kumu or Haumana, I invite you to comment on your experiences, your Halau and how it has enriched your life.

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