If the first thought that comes to mind when hearing the words, "hula dancing", is a plastic figurine wearing a grass skirt then you've got it all wrong. The dance known as their original Polynesian settlers developed hula in the Hawaiian Islands. .
The term hula refers to movement and gestures. The dance itself, however, cannot be performed with out it's most important component, mele, or poetry. Mele are records of cultural information ranging from sacred prayers and name chants (for chiefs) to tropical love songs and songs praising the land. The hand gestures used in hula dancing do not tell the entire story but do help to emphasize the important themes of the story. .
The most traditional instrument used for hula dancing is the sharkskin drum called pahu. The Pahu stands two to three feet high and is made from the trunk of the coconut or breadfruit tree. A small knee drum called puniu accompanies the pahu. The puniu is made from the skin of the kalu fish, stretched over half a coconut shell. .
Captain Cook arrived in Hawaii in 1779; centuries after the Hawaiian people began dancing the hula. Hula was then danced more by men rather than women. And grass skirts were never worn; they wore skirts made of kappa cloth. But when Christian Missionaries arrived in Hawaii back in the 1820's, the art of hula was deemed "inappropriate" and "heathenish." The missionaries were said to have been shocked by the open dancing. This was the description of the scene, "The natives would practice in the hot sun for days on end. Drums pounded, gourds rattled, singers chanted, and hundreds of dancers wearing garlands of green leaves and flowers and dog-tooth anklets moved endlessly to and fro in the lines, their brown skin glistening with sweat, with no sign of boredom or tiredness,"(Daws, 1968). After reading that you can see what passion that these people had for this dance, yet, these missionaries still went to great measures to abolish this form of art.