Hula shoes

The first time I went to Hawai’i it came as a revelation that hula was not just the entertainment of Elvis movies, but a deeply meaningful and moving form of storytelling. And the first time I saw hula kahiko, the traditional hula style often performed by men, I was spellbound. The first hula I learnt was the Haleakala Hula, using the split bamboo sticks called pū’ili. I had barely managed to master the steps by the day of the performance, so when our kumu, the magnificent Uluwehi Guerrero, surprised us by playing the accompaniment at lightning speed, I still don’t have any idea how I managed to keep up! It was only when I was throwing out my favourite old shoes, after I had worn them through, that I discovered they were ‘hula’ shoes. Which made me laugh, because of course they would have been no help to me, as there is no such thing. Whatever style of hula, it’s always performed barefoot.

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