The hula dance is probably one of the first things people think of when they hear “Hawaii”. It’s the traditional dance of the islands, made famous by popular culture. Originally performed as a ritual offering for Pele, the Volcano goddess, it's an expressive dance by women, where they illustrate the chanting poems and stories sung by men. Accompanied by drums and other instruments, the dancers also offer leis and prayers to the goddess Laka, the goddess of hula. It was often performed as part of celebrations, like weddings and funerals or to honor visits from important guests. Hula only has six moves, but these moves are linked in various ways and open to some creative interpretation.
After missionaries traveled to the Islands and converted the indigenous people to Christianity, hula was banned for a short time due to its pagan roots. Taught in secret in small villages for more than a decade, it was eventually reintroduced and even encouraged by a member of the Hawaiian royal family. Eventually commercialized by Hollywood, there are now two versions of the dance. The more traditional form is now known as hula kahiko. The modern dance, called hula auana, is most familiar to outsiders (because of TV shows and movies) and is accompanied by more Western sounding music and comprised of more fluid movements.