Hula - Embodied Spirituality through Graceful Movement and Flow

I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to learn this beautiful tradition of the Hawaiian Hula.  My teachers, Kumu Hula, have been so generous in what they have shared with me, and I am so happy to now play it forward in sharing it with others here on the mainland and in Western North Carolina.

This ancient healing art literally changed my life.  As many women, I went through my own trauma early in life with sexual abuse.  It left me with a lot of anger and confusion for many years.  It also was the catalyst to start me on a journey of spiritual and personal exploration to find peace and relief from all the emotional pain that I was feeling.  It led me to many different spiritual traditions and healing arts.  They included apprenticing to a Native American Shaman for 14 years and working with women in Ceremony; and becoming a senior teacher and certified Jin Shin Do Bodymind Acupressurist.    They all helped and gave me pieces that I needed as  I did a lot of personal emotional and physical work on myself; but I still found my body tight and inflexible.  When I tried to dance, I would get such a strong sensation of nausea in my solar plexis area that I would have to stop.

This was so hard and disturbing to me.  Before the abuse I had danced as a child and loved it.  I had an lp record called "Tina the Ballerina" - showing my age here.  I would close the door to my room, put the record on and play it over and over while I danced and danced and danced.   But than as an adult, this sense of freedom, abandonment and joy was gone with this nausea and tightness in my body there in its place.

I was finally able to release the nausea while I was at a training to become a certified acupressurist in Jin Shin Do.  There was a wonderful man there who was one of the teachers who helped me in a session to release all the anger that had been there for so many years.  Suddenly the nausea was gone, but my body still was unable to move and flow easily.  That pattern of inflexibility had been there for so long.  A counselor I was working with suggested taking some belly dance classes to see if that would help.  I did, and I loved the dance; but I also found all the isolation moves still difficult and challenging.  I felt awkward with how my body was unable to respond quickly to be able to do them.  I would return home after a class feeling frustrated and inadequate after seeing how easily it seemed to be for the other women in the class.

This same teacher I was studying belly dance with in Florida was also just starting to teach Hula.  She was attending workshops in Indiana with a group that was bringing traditional Kumu Hula (master teachers) to the mainland from Hawai'i to share with those of us here who had a love for this beautiful dance and a commitment to wanting to learn it.  I started studying Hula with her; and it was so much easier than the belly dance.  There were no isolated moves.  The basic steps were simple and easy to do.  I found myself dancing at the level I was able to and enjoying it, even with my body still tight and inflexible.  I also began going to the workshops in Indiana and then to Hawai'i to work with Kumu Hula there.  I totally and completely fell in love with the dance and everything Hawaiian.

What was so amazing and wonderful was that within a short time, my body began responding.  Suddenly I found my lower body becoming much looser with my hips starting to sway more. Than my upper body also began to move and flow as I told the story of the dance with my hands and arms.  And when I would be out with friends, dancing free form at a club with them, I began to experience that child in me dancing freely and joyfully once again as she had  done in her room to "Tina the Ballerina".  

This freedom in my body has continued to open up more and more over the years as I have continued to dance and share Hula; and now I love dancing both the choreographed traditional dances as well as the free form.  In my Musical Storytelling concerts, I used to share just one or two hulas, thinking people would prefer the songs.  Instead people would come up to me after the Concert and tell me that they would have liked to have seen more of the dances during the Concert.  Suddenly I had become a professional dancer instead of just the professional singer I had been for years, because of how the Hula was touching people.  

This has also extended to when I am out dancing with friends. People will tell me how much they enjoy watching me dance.  It warms my heart, when I think of how I was unable to dance for so many years.  It also makes me again so grateful for this wonderful gift of this Sacred Dance that has been given to me.  It is said that when one does Hula, it is healing for both the dancer as well as those who are watching.  Hula has helped me now to be able to do this - both with iits traditional form as well as free for
m dancing anywhere where I hear music.  I find myself creating my own Hula, moving and dancing even when I am walking around and shopping in a store - sometimes to the embarrassment of who I am with; but I can't help it.   My Inner Flow has been released through this dance, and it just feels so good to feel my body respond to the music and move and flow with it, wherever I am now.  And to be able to totally let myself go and surrender to that Flow, how absolutely wonderful and amazing.     

This is why sharing Hula with other women is so important to me now.   I want to help them to have this same experience of joy, fun and fulfillment through their bodies to be the radiant, beautiful and sensuous woman that we all are.  

A'a i ka hula, waiho i ka hilahila i ka hale - Dare to dance,  leave your embarrassment at home.    I look forward to having the opportunity to dance and share hula with you.

me ke aloha pumehana,

Kaleo Wheeler
Director and Kupuna of the Halau 


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