Long grass skirts, colorful tops, and lavish floral headpieces: the Hawaiian art of hula appears decidedly feminine. In traditional Hawaiian culture, however, both men and women participated in the dance. Taking this notion of dance as an activity for both genders further, Dance Network, the world’s first online dance community, says that dancing transcends boundaries such as age, gender, or race.
After several years, men’s hula is making a comeback due to the vigor of a new generation of young, male hula dancers.
A Historical Ceremonial Ritual
In the past, native Hawaiians saw hula as a form of communication: it was a way to pass down stories from one generation to the next. During the 19th and 20th centuries, however, missionaries banned the native dance for religious reasons.
After the US annexed Hawaii in 1989, hula became a Western custom, but it was more widespread among women. In the following years, the art solidified in the minds of many as a seductive, feminine dance.
A Balance of Femininity and Masculinity
While hula is commonly associated with grass-skirted women in floral crowns, men’s hula is, in fact, quite different from its feminine counterpart. The strength and grace required for men’s hula mimic the movement for “Lua,” an ancient Hawaiian martial art.
Hula dancer Ka’aimalani Spencer says hula dancing involves a strong balance between one’s masculine and feminine side — in fact, hula is where males can channel their softer, feminine side. He believes that a true kāne, or man, have an equal balance of femininity and masculinity in them.
A Fearless Generation of Modern Hula Dancers
During the cultural revival of the 1970s, Robert Cazimero, a legendary hula teacher, started an all-male troop called Na Kamalel. Since then, the group has grown significantly. Cazimero calls the young dancers “Generation Fearless” — a group of people defying hula stereotypes and empowering native cultural pride.
Men’s hula is more than just a celebration of native Hawaiian roots: it is also a way for dancers to express themselves. The groundbreaking trend of young, male hula dancers is instilling a sense of self-identity and cultural pride in hula dancers across the world.