Back before my knee was bad enough to need a full knee replacement, and back before I tore both rotator cuffs, I danced hula. I had two wonderful teachers, a mom and her daughter, and fell in love with hula from the first lesson.
What is it about hula that is so intoxicating, graceful, beautiful, soulful, spiritual? Every movement of feet, legs, hips, waist, shoulders, arms, hands and head have meaning. I learned some ancient dances passed on from generations of hula dancers and kumus (teachers). I learned relatively new dances, holiday dances, story-telling dances, happy dances, and historical dances.
Hula doesn’t care if you are young or old, heavy or thin, or whether you have some body issues that make it hard to do some of the steps. It matters only that you dance your best, in love and in spirit, honoring the souls of all the ancients who first danced. The dance can be a prayer, a story, a celebration; some dances are very serious, some are fun and frivolous, some tell stories and some are beyond words and thought.
However, I had to stop dancing due to the first torn rotator cuff. I had surgery to repair it, and recovery was slow. And wouldn’t you know it; about a year later the repair tore. At that time I had no health insurance, so I couldn’t have it repaired again. However, I did daily exercises to strengthen the areas around the rotator cuff, which gave me more mobility and much less pain.
But every day I mourned the loss of dancing hula. I thought that I might be able to dance again, if I were careful. At the time, I told my mother this, and she said, “oh, no—you’re just like me; you would over-do it and re-injure yourself.” I had to agree; I knew she was right.
Years passed, and I thought of hula often, wondering what new and exciting dances were being taught. My heart ached to dance again. I remembered how I had learned to drum an ipu, a traditional Hawaiian gourd drum. I also remembered how much I had wanted to learn the chanting that provides a background rhythm for many of the dances.
Recently, in cleaning out our upstairs area, I found a large box of hula outfits. I had forgotten all about them; they were costumes for the hula shows in which I used to dance. So I contacted my hula teachers to let them know I had them; we agreed to meet so I could give them back.
We met at a nearby doughnut shop, and ended up talking for two hours. Yes, they would love to have me back; yes, they would love to have me drum again; yes, they could teach me the chants, and yes, I could dance again, taking my knee and shoulder issues in consideration.
My heart filled with hope; maybe I really could go back and dance again! They told me that they have had some students with knee and hip issues and they dance the best that they can. ‘You can do that, too,’ they said, smiling.
So, after two seconds of thought, I threw caution to the wind and said that I would love to come back. I’m going to dance again, play my ipu again, and learn those amazing chants. I feel absolutely giddy with hope and happiness, and this coming weekend, back to hula I go!
I may not be the best hula dancer, but hopefully my joy in the dance and my gratitude in being there will make up for it.