Basic Hula Steps

Hula dancer

Basic hula steps form the foundation of a unique cultural dance form of the Pacific.

Hula Background

Hula is a traditional dance of the Hawaiian islands. It is performed to songs or chants known as meles. The dance then serves to illustrate or complement the lyrics of the mele.

Dances are divided into two categories. Hula kahiko are the ancient dances recounting stories of mythology and important historical events. Hula auana refers to more modern forms of the dance. Increased Western influence resulted in more melodic songs, and the topics behind the dances broadened. Although historically, hula was performed for kings and used as a religious celebration, now it is just as likely to be part of a display for tourists.

A Few Basic Hula Steps

There are numerous steps involved in hula performance. The following are just a few of the basics commonly incorporated in dances:

  • Ha'a - Dancers stand with knees bent. This is the basic stance from which other hula steps begin.
  • Lewa - Literally translated at "lift", this step involves lifting the hips.
  • Hela - One of the most basic movements of the feet, for hela, a dancer touches one foot to the side at about a 45-degree angle in front of her body. Weight remains on the other foot and the dancer maintains the bent-knee stance. She returns the foot to the starting position and repeats with the other side.
  • Ka'o - The dancer lifts one foot, then raises and lowers the heel of the opposite foot. The movements repeat on the other foot.
  • 'Ami - This is a basic hip rotation with multiple variations.
    • 'Ami 'ami - The movement takes on a crude tone with this option.
    • 'Ami 'ôniu - Rotate the hips in a figure eight pattern to perform this 'ami.
    • 'Ami ku'upau - This version relies on speed to make an impression.
  • Kâholo - This step involves performing a lewa while traveling. The dancer first steps to one side and follows with the opposite foot. He steps to the same side again. However, when he follows with the opposite foot, he doesn't place his weight on it, preparing to change directions.
  • 'Uehe - The dancer lifts one foot and moves her weight to the opposite hip when stepping down. She then raises both heels to push the knees forward and repeats these movements on the opposite side.
  • Lele - Another walking movement, the dancer lifts the heel with each step.

Arm Movements

Arm movements are key to hula's story-telling nature. A dancer's hands can become raindrops or the ocean waves. The use of different arm movements can add new meaning to a performance as it complements the list of basic hula steps.

Hula Instruction

Students attend halau hula, or hula schools, to receive instruction in the basic hula steps. provides a list of halau hula for potential dancers.

However, not everyone lives near a suitable school. DVD instruction allows you to learn hula in your own home. Whether you're interested in a basic workout or serious instruction, there's a video for you. A few of the available titles include:

Whether you would like to perform hula or are just an interested observer, learning more about the basics of the dance tradition is the first step to better appreciation of the art form.

Basic Hula Steps