Those who are up on their state history might be aware that today is Kamehameha Day, a Hawaiian state holiday that celebrates and remembers Hawaii’s famous 19th century ruler, King Kamehameha I. But Hawaii has given us way more than holiday parades, pretty flowers, and a cool 13 letter alphabet. She’s also favored us with one of the best things to happen to body mod since the invention of the BCR: modern hula.
Now when we say “modern hula,” we’re referring to the type of hula dancing that has been popularized throughout the United States and Europe, the contemporary variety that involves grass skirts and ukulele music. Traditional hula actually goes back hundreds of years, and was practiced very differently from what most of would recognize. Ancient hula was performed to appease the volcano goddess Pele, and involved only percussion, poetic verse or prayer, and fluid dancing performed wearing much less ornamentation. After these traditional dances were complete, the leis that the performers had worn around their heads and arms were laid down upon an altar as a flower offering to Pele’s sister goddess Laka.
Modern hula, in contrast, involves much more elaborate costumes, melodic music, and according to some, less primal movements. As for its contribution to modification culture, the popularity of the belly button piercing can be partially attributed to the revitalization of the dance starting in the 1970s and evolving through to the present. As images of exotic hula girls became a staple of pinup style art and photography, bare bellies adorned with matching piercings and tattoo art took on a new appeal.
Today, many women of Hawaiian and various other descents have turned to the practice of hula as a means of self-expression, akin to the mastery of middle eastern belly dance. Some have even modified their midsection or other commonly unconcealed body parts to purposely add interest to their costuming or movements whilst performing hula.
So with Summer in full swing, we’d be remiss not to say, “thank you Hawaii,” for taking our thirst for belly mods to a whole new level. Time to get your hula on.