Each halau has its own personality, of course. But there are certain things that you can expect if you go to one.
First, we request permission, by chanting, to enter the class. Our kumu responds with a chant, inviting us to enter. We chant as we come together into a circle (if guests are present, they are also invited into the circle), put on our puka shell leis, and begin our class with prayer to Ke Akua (God). We close this opening session by singing the Doxology in Hawaiian.
Next we work on ʽōlelo (language). We have a textbook, and we have to take quizzes and chapter tests! Unfortunately for our poor kumu ʽōlelo most of us are struggling with this part. For many of us, while the letters are “english”, they might as well be written in Hebrew! Or so it seems.
Then comes a brief review of the basic hula steps, and we transition into whatever dance(s) we may be learning or reviewing.
The haumana are divided into categories. Keiki are the kids (both boys and girls, ages 12 and under). Next are the ʻōpiopio, our girls from ages 13 to approximately 22. Wahine are women over the age of 22. Makuahine, or “gracious ladies”, are those who are 49+. If you’re a bit less agile than others, you can become a makuahine before your time! (And doesn’t “Gracious Lady” sound so much nicer than “old woman”? LOL) Kane are males age 13+.
Our youngest halau member is 5; she started when she was 3. Our oldest member is in her mid-80s. One of the best things about hula is that it doesn’t matter if you’re old, young, small, medium, or extra large. There is a grace and elegance to hula that accommodates all ages and sizes, and welcomes all to its world.