Hawaiian Dance Implements

Let’s talk beats. Hawaiian Hula beats that is. Instruments that Hawaiian musicians use in music include the Pahu, Ukulele, and Steel Guitar. The dancers also have their own instruments that they can play while dancing. These instruments are called dance implements.

Dance implements are instruments designed specifically for the dancer’s use in a performance. There are four common dance implements that may be used in a Hawaiian Hula dance. Dance implements accentuate the beats and rhythms of the music. The dancer uses the unique sounds of each implement in accompaniment to the musicians’ instruments. The four Hawaiian Hula implements are the ‘Uli ‘Uli, Pu’ili sticks, Ipu, and ‘Ili ‘Ili.

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‘Uli ‘Uli – These are feather gourd rattles. They are usually used together. A single ‘Uli ‘Uli can be used in a Kaviko (traditional chant dance) in some cases. The feather caps are usually gold or yellow in the middle and red on the outside. For more traditional dances, a brown feather cap is used in place of the red and yellow. The dancer shakes them in beats to the music and a rattle sound is produced.

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Pu’ili – Pu’ili sticks are made of bamboo. When they are hit together in a rhythmic pattern in tune with the chosen music, the sound represents the wind. They are used in pairs, however, traditional Kaviko dances may utilize one Pu’ili stick and slapped against the body and hands for an even more challenging rhythmic pattern.

Ipu – The Ipu is the handheld gourd that a dancer uses. The Pahu drum is the main drum of Hawaiian Hula beats in a Kaviko performance. The Ipu is used in conjunction to the Pahu in a Kaviko or with the other implements in a round for an Auana (modern Hula) dance.

‘Ili ‘Ili – These small handheld lava stones are again used for rhythmic variances. All of the implements are used in both Kaviko and Auana dances if utilized. For the lava stones, four stones are used in dance, a pair for each hand.


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