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'Iolani Luahine

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Painting of 'Iolani Luahine by Shelley Grisbrook


'Iolani Luahine (1915-1978) was esteemed as a performer of chant-accompanied hula, an older form of the ancient dance, and recognized as one of a handful of individuals responsible for the survival of this form in the twentieth century. Praised by Ted Shawn as "an artist of world stature," she was trained by her aunt Keahi Luahine (1877-1937) and subsequently taught and coached her niece Hoakalei Kamau'u (1929- ), passing down performance details directly. Luahine was featured in several television programs, as well as in the documentary films Hula Ho'olaule'a (1960) and 'Iolani Luahine: Hawaiian Dancer (1976). The growing popularity of Hollywood films in the 1930s, along with increased commercial sponsorship of the hula as a tourist attraction, promoted the more recent song-accompanied hula, threatening extinction of the chant-accompanied form. Luahine's superb talents, attractiveness to audiences, and personal commitment kept the earlier art from being lost. Her career is testament to the adage that dances are passed down like myths, from one artist to another.

Pictured right: This painting of 'Iolani Luahine by Shelley Grisbrook, completed in 2005, is based on a 1961 photograph by Francis Haar. It depicts Luahine dancing a hula that is said to be dedicated to King Kamehameha, comparing the King’s virtues to the island of Kaua’i.



Read essay by Irlanda Esteli Jacinto -- Selected resources