We Are Invited To Observe a Native Dance…

At sunrise July 5th, 1823, Mr. Stewart and I walked down to Keopuolani’s, to attend the usual morning exercises, in the large house near the sea. About fifty persons were present. In the afternoon I accompanied the missionaries to their schools on the beach. The proficiency of many of the pupils in reading, spelling, and writing on slates, was pleasing. Just as they had finished their afternoon instruction, a party of musicians and dancers arrived before the house of Keopuolani, and commenced a hula ka laau, (dance to the beating of a stick.) Five musicians advanced first, each with a staff in his left hand, five or six feet long, about three or four inches in diameter at one end, and tapering off to a point at the other. In his right hand he held a small stick of hard wood, six or nine inches long, with which he commenced his music, by striking the small stick on the larger one, beating time all the while with his right foot on a stone, placed on the ground beside him for that purpose. Six women, fantastically dressed in yellow tapas, crowned with garlands of flowers, having also wreaths of the sweet-scented flowers of the gardenia on their necks, and branches of the fragrant mairi, (another native plant,) bound round their ancles, now made their way by couples through the crowd, and, arriving at the area, on one side of which the musicians stood, began their dance. Their movements were slow, and though not always graceful, exhibited nothing offensive to modest propriety. Both musicians and dancers alternately chanted songs in honor of former gods and chiefs of the islands, apparently much to the gratification of the numerous spectators. After they had continued their hula, (song and dance,) for about half an hour, the queen, Keopuolani, requested them to leave off, the people dispersed, and the dancers returned to their houses. (Ellis)

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(These are excerpts from a book by William Ellis that has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired.)

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