GW students teach their native dance – the hula from Hawaii

Women in skirts move their hips and bare feet to the rhythm of a Hawaiian song. They say words like aloha and koholo, but they are not dancing on a beach or around a bonfire like in movies.

These GW students meet in Marvin Center’s Room 405, escaping the cold winter of D.C., to learn to dance the traditionally tropical hula.

Hula’s elegant, freshman Gloria Ortas said to one of her students at the lesson Sunday afternoon. Your head has to be up high.

Ortas and Maire Butterfield, both freshmen from Hawaii, teach free hula and Tahitian dancing every Sunday for the Hawaiian Club.

The lessons are a good chance for me to practice some more and to spread the culture of Hawaii to more people, Butterfield said. It’s something that reminds us of home.

The freshmen said the hula they teach does not involve grass skirts and coconuts, like dances shown on television. Hula dancing is the art of telling a story through gestures and dancing, and the women usually wear long elegant dresses.

Coconuts and grass skirts are often used for Tahitian dancing, which is also taught in the class, the instructors said. Women make wilder movements and shake their hips in this style of dancing. It was Tahitian dancing, not the hula, that was seen by those who went to last fall’s Midnight Madness, the instructors said.

The wild motions of Tahitian dancing attracted freshman Kathy Allarde to come to Sunday’s class.

After seeing it at Midnight Madness I wanted to learn how to do it, Allarde said.

Veteran Tahitian dancers practiced alongside rookies during the Hawaiian Club’s second dance session.

It is a once in a lifetime experience, said freshman Laura Katjang, one of the dancers in the Midnight Madness performance. You get to learn something you would never get the opportunity to learn on the East Coast.

Many women in the class were in the fall performance, but everyone is welcome to take the lessons, Ortas said. The group is now preparing for a GW luau, a Hawaiian party with food and entertainment, in April.

Ortas and Butterfield said they hope they will recruit new dancers for April’s luau during the dance lessons. They said the most important goal is to enjoy the dance they love.

The instructors also met their goal of providing valuable instruction to students, some first-timers said.

They are great teachers, said sophomore Stephanie Michael, secretary of the Hawaii Club. They do all the work.

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