Learns Hula

From the Touching Story of


Hāpaimemeue was the daughter of Makaliʻi and Maʻū. She fell in love with Keāniniʻulaokalani, the husband of Haʻinakolo. In order to get him to be hers, her parents, performed love magic on him and two of them existed, for a time, in the "world of rainbows" created for them. After a time, however, the spell was broken and Keānini returned to Haʻinakolo. Beside herself with sadness, Hāpaimemeue looked for another way to get Keānini back again...

Hāpaimemeue learns Hula

Ka Naʻi Aupuni - Noveber 29, 1907

At this moment, my reader friend enjoying this traditional story of Hawaiʻi, let us leave our discussion of Hāʻinakolo and the others and let us turn our attention to Hāpaimemeue, daughter of Makaliʻinuikūakawaiea and Maʻū.

When Keāniniʻulaokalani was taken from her embrace, the love she felt inside for him became a source of deep despair. She wept day and night, and everywhere she looked or went, she was beset by her love for him. She could no longer enjoy the taste of food; all she did was cry uncontrollably for Keānini.

Her parents tried repeatedly to console her, but she didn’t listen to anything they said. Her mother, Maʻū, explained that there were many handsome young men in other places, and that one of them could certainly be a fitting partner for her. But the girl replied to her mother, “What you said about those handsome men may be true, mother. But nothing can change my love for the chief who first uncovered my joy and desire. I love him, and that love is a sustenance to which I have become accustomed. You two find another daughter, raise her until she is grown, then join her with these men of whom you speak to me. My body, however, shall remain with the one I love until it joins the belly of the earth. I will not agree to what you propose, mother. The love magic prayers of you two were supposed to have power over my man, but it turns out your nonsensical incantations are completely ineffectual when it comes to the power of those nasty girls of Waipiʻo.” 

Because this girl spoke in such a surly way to her mother, the latter hung her head down, and after a time she raised it again and said to the girl, “Well, then! Since you are so stubbornly stuck on getting Keānini and making him your man, my advice to you is to learn hula. Once you’ve got it down completely, top to bottom, that will be the means of getting Keānini to be yours. However, the two of you will dwell together for a time, then your man will leave you once again, for his other woman has several strong family guardians on her side. This man of the two of you will leave you when Haʻinakolo returns to her homeland.”

Then the girl asked, “Who will teach me hula? Do you two know it?”

“I know it, your very own mother, and your father does, too,” responded Maʻū to her daughter and continued, “It’s something we both learned in our youth and our training was completed through the ʻailolo ritual. I was the dancer with mastery of the upper body and your father was my chanter and drummer with expertise in footwork. There was no learned, or skilled dancer or teacher who could outshine us in this art.”

“You two are so terrible to me,” her daughter retorted. “Here is the very thing that could have kept my man with me. Why didn’t you teach it to me sooner? You wait to urge me to learn until my man has gone back to that ugly, vile one from Hawaiʻi, then you thrust me into the study of dance. But, I can’t be concerned with that. I shall learn the hula.”  

Then Hāpaimemeue continued speaking again, asking her parents, “When will you two teach me?”

“When the nights of Kāne and Lono arrive. On those nights I will go through the process of limbering your body until it is supple. I shall also teach you the footwork. Once you have those movements down, we’ll add your [father’s] drumming and chanting. And that is how you will be trained until you are adept in this art. Then we’ll graduate you. And on the day of your graduation, that’s the day your hula guardian shall fetch your man in Kuaihelani and Keānini will finally be yours.”

These statements Hāpaimemeue’s mother made to her were genuine. And they held true; the instruction of this girl by her mother thus began. The very first lesson she learned was the limbering of her body. She was put up against the house post. Her upper trunk was tied to it, the rope starting at her chest, which is also called the umauma, then going to her underarms and she was bound to this pole. Then her mother taught her how to make her body supple.

It was perhaps a full ten day span of the mother teaching her daughter all the hip and lower body movements required in hula. Hāpaimemeue was very competent in learning the part of hula that pertained to the lower half of her body. Then, the cords binding her upper half were undone and moved to her thighs; her backside was firmly fixed to the post and her trunk was free.

At this time, her mother began to instruct her in the movements of the upper half of the body—the gesturing of the hands, the posturing of the shoulders. Also the bowing and moving of the head, the expression of the eyes, and so forth. It was also 10 days of Kāne and Lono nights for this instruction and the girl became highly proficient in it. And when her mother was done teaching her the gestures of the hands, the binding ropes were completely removed and instruction in foot movements began.

In less than ten nights, the girl had picked up all the things she was taught. When the three sections the girl had finished learning were brought together and with the assistance of the mother’s chanting voice, Hāpaimemeue was truly graceful. She glided like an ʻiwa bird on a windy day, and when she danced in the low style, she moved marvelously, like the stern of a boat on wild, stormy seas. 

When Maʻū saw that her daughter had become adept in all the lessons she’d taught her, she informed her husband, Makaliʻinuikūakawaiea, “Husband, several ten day spans have passed of my instructing our daughter in all things pertaining to being an ʻōlapa dancer, and I can see that she is truly skilled. All is in good order. The only thing left is the drum beat. Once that is fully integrated, without errors—her dancing combined with your drum playing and chanting—it will be done."

Her husband agreed, saying, “Okay, since you have completed a big part of the task, getting her used to footwork and following the drum beat with her body should be minor. I shall undertake that next next phase of the work.”

The next day, Makaliʻi began instructing the girl in dancing to the drum. There were two sorts of drums he began using for instruction: the kāʻeke drum and the gourd drum. 

The girl danced with all the elegance she could muster and sweat began to appear on her body. Her skirt was also nice and full, making her backside appear plump and round, like a short and smooth calabash. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes glowing, like the sweet eyes of the elegantly-feathered pheasant. The girl was truly beautiful.

When her mother saw her daughter’s regal bearing she then said to her sleek leaf, beaming with pride, “That is your beauty, my daughter, by which Keāniniʻulaokalani will become yours.Then your wishes and desires will be fulfilled.This sort of hula, ʻōlapa, it’s hula that can snatch up other folks’ men, when the dancer dances deftly and gracefully.”

Her father’s drum started up and the girl put her all into what she had learned, just as it had been perfected by her mother. She watched the girl who moved like the ʻiwa bird soaring the cliffs and the shrimp that leaps onto the rock covered in seamoss. Her father’s instruction continued until Hāpaimemeue had learned everything. There wasn’t a single kāʻeke or pā ipu number the father knew that the girl did not get down. And when her parents saw how skilled she was, they decided she would complete an ʻailolo graduation ceremony and an ʻūniki performance. When the girl’s dancing had been formalized through the ʻūniki, then she and her parents would tour around to all the places in Kuaihelani to perform her knowledge of hula.

Maʻū and Makaliʻi also composed some hula for Keānini. The compositions were perfectly aligned with the drumming and with Hāpaimemeue’s dancing. 

Prior to the day this daughter of Makaliʻinuikūakawaiea was to ʻūniki, word had spread all over the land about the young chiefess’ skill in hula. And there was unmatched excitement among everyone, from the chiefs to the lowest of the land’s lazy farmhands to see the young chiefess on the day of her ʻūniki performance. These chiefs, Maʻū and Makaliʻi, also summoned all the folks with knowledge of hula to gather on the day the young chiefess was to ʻūniki. And all the court members of the chiefs, the folks who had seen Keānini and their young chiefess together in days passed, were sure that he would show up on the day of Hāpaimemeue’s ʻūniki.

To be continued...