Hula Arm Movements


Hula dance embodies several arts in one smooth, graceful performance. Originally used in religious ceremonies or to entertain kings, hula is a visual accompaniment to music and chants, called mele. With arms and hands, while grass skirts sway, hula dancers depict natural elements or events through arm placement or movement. In modern times, hula evolved into two basic forms: Hula kahiko represents the historical use of hula dance performed to chants, while hula auana refers to hula of more recent times, with Westernized, melodic music.

Basic Hula Arms

During performance of basic steps, hula arms are extended to one side at chest height. When the right arm is fully extended, the left arm is bent at the elbow and crosses the chest. Hands, as extensions of the arms, are slightly cupped and move like ocean waves through dropping and raising the wrists. Move arms slowly and smoothly from extension to the right to extension to the left.

Interpretive Arm Movements

Demonstrating the mele, hula dancers perform the words of the chant. The greeting "aloha" begins with cupped hands in front of the chest. Gracefully, the dancer extends her arms outward as she opens her cupped hands, making a warm, welcoming gesture that reaches outward to the crowd or individual. "Love" is depicted through the universal symbol of love, with the dancer's arms crossed over her chest. Hula dances end with a posture called the "pau." With the right foot pointed, the dancer learns forward from the waist while bowing her head and extending her arms downward with her hands together over her toes.


Elements of nature figure prominently in the myths and oral history of the Polynesians who developed the hula dance. A palm tree is depicted with both arms extended out front at shoulder height. Your left arm is bent at the elbow and your left hand is placed on your right elbow as your right forearm is raised. Your raised forearm leans toward to the left, making a 45-degree angle. Sway your right arm slightly back and forth with a gentle motion while your hand pivots slightly from the wrist. Raise your arms to the side with one arm lower than the other, to resemble mountains or hills. Face your palms outward.

Sky Elements

Sky elements are prominent in paradise. To resemble these features, hula arms make large sweeping movements. Demonstrate the rising sun with hands together at knee level. Slowly move the arms outward and upward until they are overhead and fingertips nearly touch. Form the shape of the risen sun or moon with your arms extended over your head with your palms turned up and your fingertips touching. Make a rainbow with your arms bent at the elbows toward your left. Touch your palms together before sweeping your right arm upward and outward in a broad arc.