Hula ‘Auana

Each spring thousands of people gather in Hilo, Hawaiʻi for the annual Merrie Monarch Festival, a unique celebration of hula (dance). The event perpetuates many aspects of Hawaiian culture, including oli (chants), mo‘olelo (legends) and distinct ʻaʻahu (costumes). Hālau (schools) from across the state and around the world perform two distinct types of hula: kahiko (traditional) and ‘auana (contemporary).

Hula ‘auana originated in the 19th century as missionaries introduced the western views of modesty. Clothing became less revealing. Women wore long dresses, rather than paʻu (skirts) and men wore pants instead of malo (loincloth). In the 20th century, groups began to offer hula performances for American soldiers and tourists. Hula ʻauana evolved and now incorporates various western traditions: mele (song), lead vocals, and introduced stringed instruments (ukulele, guitar, and bass). Costumes might utilize fabric with aloha prints or palaka (checkered shirt), raffia, or even bright cellophane!

The Lyman Museum preserves many hula-related photographs and other objects. To see more, contact the Archives to make an appointment. Learn more at

Note: Hawaiian diacritical marks comprise just two symbols: the ʻokina (glottal stop) and the kahakō (macron). We use them with Hawaiian place names, but do not add them to proper names if a family or a company does not use them.

This phonograph record (78 RPM) by Andrew Aiona’s Novelty Four features the songs “Hula Girl” and “Keko,” 1929. The musician and songwriter Andrew Iona Long (1902-1966) used several band names: Andrew Aiona’s Novelty Four, Andy Iona and His Hawaiian Troubadours, Andy Iona and His Islanders, and Andy Iona and His Orchestra. Like Iona, other Hawaiian groups created songs that highlighted hula such as “My Honolulu Hula Girl,” “The Hula Blues,” “That Lovin’ Hula,” and “The Luau Hula.”
Seven hula dancers and one woman playing a guitar perform a hula show for sailors grouped in the background, 1932. A U.S. Navy ship in Hilo Bay is also in the background.
Nine women with the Rose Kuamoo hālau are gathered on the steps of the Hilo Federal building for a May Day or Lei Day Celebration, ca. 1942.  The young women are wearing ti leaf skirts while the two women with ukelele stand behind them. Standing is Helen Keliipio and Mrs. Loa. The hula dancers (left to right) are: Katherine Kimi, Irene, Cecelia Kimi, Waialeale Maluo, Iwalani Mehau, Queenie Loa, and Violet Kimi (barely visible).
An unidentified hula troupe at Kilauea Military Camp, Volcano, Hawaiʻi, June 1943 
This 1952 dinner menu is from the Royal Hawaiian hotel in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. The evening entertainment included “Hulas by Lovely Lila and Kuuipos,” “Bill Akamuhou and his Royal Hawaiian Hotel Orchestra,” and the “Royal Hawaiian Serenaders.”
This 1952 dinner menu from the Royal Hawaiian hotel in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi features an illustration of a dancer wearing a lei poʻo (head lei) and holding an ʻulīulī (rattle). The work is called “Hula Dancer Hawaii” by John Kelly. (For more information about John Kelly’s work please go to this website:
This color postcard features a group of women in traditional hula costumes. Made for the tourist market, it reads: “Greetings from the Aloha State – Hawaii.”