Hula Workshop
of Southern New England

Traditional and new hula instruction and performances. Hawaiian language and culture. Luau and party consultation and entertainment. Offering beginner through advanced hula classes and private hula lessons.
Rose Kapulani Joshua

Be sure to check out the Hula Workshop News and Events and read Ka Leo o Ke Kai, our blog!

What makes a hula traditional? Is it Hawaiian subject matter? A song in the Hawaiian language?

There's a Joshua dance to Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, as sung by Brenda Lee!

Our Tradition

Hawaiians speak of one's hula lineage, who you've studied with, and who they studied with; in essence, where your hula came from.

At Hula Workshop you will follow the tradition of hula master Rose Kapulani Joshua, my primary teacher. Rose Joshua style hulas are:
  • Articulate - more hand gestures than some other styles, and gestures are made precisely when the word they indicate is being sung.
  • Danced flat footed - the spine stays straight throughout the hip sway; no rolling, sideways-8 hip motion.
  • Not as "soft" or "languid" as some other modern styles; gestures are firm and may appear abrupt.
  • Danced with a few techniques not common to other styles of hula.

Accordingly, when a song is in Hawaiian, I will translate it and emphasize key words to cue on for your gestures. Where technique varies from what you've learned before, I'll break down the motion and explain precisely how to do it. 

Not all dances I teach are in Rose Joshua style, but all follow her philosophy:

"Hula is acting." - Rose Kapulani Joshua

When you are dancing hula, it's not "about you." In fact, you shouldn't really be there. Like an actor, you are channeling something else. In this case, it's the images and ideas of a culture. You are illustrating poetry with your hands, face, and body. You are the video, the song is the audio. Many people find this freeing, calming or inspiring. If this applies to you, then hula might be a practice you undertake like yoga.

And that brings up another point:

We are a secular hula studio.

We are not a halau. We do not follow rituals or pray as a group. I may teach you chants named for Hawaiian gods and goddesses, but worship is your own business. If you are looking for a halau to join, I can help you find one (although it will probably involve travel or be a distance-learning experience). Having a secular studio is an integral part of Rose Joshua's tradition, and that is the primary reason Hula Workshop has one, too.

With her heritage, if anyone could have claimed to have a traditional halau hula in the 1970s, it was Mrs. Joshua. However, she did not. Her place of learning was called Magic Hula Studio from 1946 when it opened on upper Kalakaua Avenue and for close to 60 years after that! This was not by chance or by lack of knowledge, but as a result of Mrs. Joshua's personal beliefs.

"Secular" does not mean inauthentic or watered down. Rose Joshua was a generation older than Ma`iki Aiu and many of the other old masters teaching at the time I took my seminal hula lessons with her. She was a full two generations before many of the kupuna, or elders, whose work is being preserved as treasure today. If you study and dance with us, you will receive some of what Mrs. Joshua passed on to me and you will have the opportunity for deep learning.
A special gift
When you dance in Mrs. Joshua's tradition, you are perpetuating something very special and not too common. So far as I know, no one in Hawai`i is continuing Magic Hula Studio at this time. We are lucky in New England to have another teacher who studied directly with Rose Joshua and Lorraine Joshua Daniel, Marta Moussa of Polynesian Dance Arts in Massachusetts. It's so wonderful to see these dances living on stage here, so far from Honolulu, where they're so hard to find.
New and experimental hula
At Hula Workshop, we dance with:
  • traditional steps
  • a real old style of telling a story with gestures
  • high standards of choreography and staging.
But, we can use this rich dance vocabulary to "talk" about anything in our experience--same as the Hawaiians did.

You will dance to chants, modern and 20th century Hawaiian songs, hapa haole (Hawaiian theme, English lyrics) songs, and sometimes to songs that have nothing to do with Hawai`i. Why? In the 18th through the 20th centuries, Hawaiians were quick to innovate. If Queen Lili`uokalani could write a song about a lawn sprinkler (Ka Wiliwili Wai), I think we can dance hula to things we encounter wherever we are.