DEVOTIONAL: THE OTHER SIDE OF HULA
Laurie Kahaanui was my first worship-hula teacher. The way she danced, you can tell she was exceptionally good, not only because she was taught in a formal hula school (halau, secular) but she taught me more than just the technical moves. Laurie taught me a certain way to hula. Most experienced or formally trained hula dancers know how to connect with the audience with a smile and a special look. (Try checking out our group teachers and members; they’ve got the friendly look and smile down pat.)
Laurie is known for her eyebrow lift while she smiled or looked at the audience. It’s almost like enticing someone, which is probably close to a no-no for a Christian audience, but I’ve done it in a more friendly way instead of flirtatious. And it makes a difference from just “dancing” the moves we’ve been taught; not just going through the motions.
Next time we learn a new song, it’s important to memorize the moves, but it’s more important to dance above all that and be able to express the words of the song through your hands, eyes, facial expressions, etc. Most of the time, we know the dance enough to dance it for an audience, but we’re so focused on the technical moves that we don’t bother with our expressions, gracefulness, connection with the audience.
Another important aspect of dancing particularly worship-hula is of course, the worship. We need to look like we’re worshipping or even actually be worshipping and dancing hula like a prayer to God. Your eyes should be sincerely and lovingly looking up to the Heavens like you’re talking to Jesus. That’s why we remind each other every now and then ~ we dance for the Audience of One. We dance as if Jesus was the only one watching. What an honor. But also, He watches more forgivingly and less critically than our peers. “Man looks at the outside; God looks at our hearts.” 1 Samuel 16:7 ”But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
I’ve noticed also that just because it’s a worship song we’re dancing, we tend to act somber, no smiling, so reverent, so constricted, so rigid. The only moment (not a long time) we can look a little sad is when part of the song is sad. But Christian songs usually don’t stay sad and dramatic…it usually gets to the part of hope and joy from the Lord. So please, I know us teachers/leaders may sound like a broken record, but we have to emphasize that we are also witnessing to the audience something they would want to also have (joy of the Lord), not something scary, after watching our sad or numb faces and expressions. You know the verbage: say it like you mean it? Well, dance it like you mean it.
Anyway, I want to talk-story about one of my hula mentors telling my group: You never know what or who God is going to use to get the attention of the audience. She said the adults were busy trying to perfect the moves to their hula. But in the show, one of the keikis was obviously not perfect and she made mistakes, she did a “solo”. After the show, many people came up to the little girl and saying that she touched them in a special way… She wasn’t perfect but the fact that she got up there and joined the adults ~ such bravery, candidness and spirit. You can say that God used this keiki to connect with the audience.
I, too, have observed a similar story. One time in a former hula group, one of the students was correcting another leader/teacher in her dance while they were practicing. We all need to be teachable and open to correction…but the way it’s done, needs to be respectful. This student who was correcting was not even a teacher…so let’s try to leave the teaching and correcting to the job of the teacher. Most likely the student did not realize what she was doing. I bet in her mind, she thought she was helping. The irony or my point in all this is: Don’t forget the other side of hula. There’s a technical side. And there’s an expressive side. After they danced, people came up to the teacher/leader and told her that no wonder she was the teacher/ leader because it showed that she loves God; and that she was the best dancer because her expressions said it all. I hope that the one who was correcting her, sees the other side. And it may be the harder side, but if I too can teach anything about hula, I hope I can teach you all the expressive side. I believe this is what it means to give excellence to God: Just show up, do your best, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest =).
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”