Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hula Dances

Fumes rising from the crater at Volcano National Park
Yesterday we drove to Volcano National Park, around 100 miles from Kona where we are staying. It was not very good weather most of the day, but we enjoyed the scenery anyway. Behind the outcropping of lava in the photo above, you can see the fumes and steam rising from the most active part of the crater, where there is currently a lava lake. Viewing the lake isn't possible because of the sulphur fumes.

When we first arrived, it was really raining hard, and a scheduled hula performance, which was supposed to take place in view of the crater, had been moved inside to the visitor center auditorium, usually used to show movies (so I couldn't get any good photos). The leader was an older man who chanted traditional song-stories in the Hawaiian language about the gods and kings of old Hawaii. A woman read a translation of the songs with some background information.

Hula dancer, Volcano National Park
The most enthusiastic dancer -- though perhaps not the one who knew the dances best -- was this little girl, who posed for a photo on the visitor center porch after the performance.

Today we saw a quite different hula performance at the monthly crafts market that occupies the main shopping street of downtown Kona. These dancers were very skilled, though the traditional song accompanying their dance may be a bit more recent -- "Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawaiʻi" -- written in 1933 in English with a few Hawaiian words. Traditions being what they are, the Hawaiian-language chants we heard yesterday could actually have been written more recently for the revival of pre-contact Hawaiian arts, but I don't really know. Everything about local history here is perplexing.

Hula Dancers, Kona Sunday Craft Market

Hula Dancers, Kona

The market stalls, under their awnings, line the road along the waterfront
In case you are wondering, this cove is where the Iron Man triathlon begins and ends. Like many seaside hotels here, the hotel in the background of the photo is on the site of a royal palace, which would also have been a religious place. It's named the King Kamehameha hotel, in honor of the beloved king who united the islands -- he's celebrated by the chants of the Volcano hula dancers as well as by having a hotel named for him. Perplexed history.

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