Young hula dancers from Halau (hula group) Kahula O Ka Moana Pakipika, prepare to dance at the edge of Halema'uma'u crater on the summit of Kîlauea volcano in honor of Pele, the volcano goddess. The fluid movements of hula depict natural flows such as trees blowing in the wind or fish swimming. As a form of worship of Pele, it was banned by Christian missionaries.
Hawaii – Photo Tip

Dancing for a fire godess

Photo by Bill Harby

Hawaii – Photo Tip Dancing for a fire godess

The young hula dancers of Halau ("hula group") Kahula O Ka Moana Pakipika prepare to dance on a breathtaking location: at the edge of Kîlauea, one of Hawaii's active volcanos.

Bill Harby
Bill Harby Writer

The dancers were at the lip of the Halema‘uma‘u crater on the summit of Hawaii's Kîlauea volcano – the legendary home of volcano goddess Pele. There is not a more powerful place for a hula dancer to perform than here. The occasion was the annual investiture of the royal court for the Aloha Festivals that take place each year around Hawaii.

This is a solemn occasion for practitioners of Hawaiian culture, and dancers take their role seriously. For them, hula is much more than a form of dance; it is immersion in the traditions of native Hawaiian culture, including not just the dance, but language, legend, earth science and more. These girls – who call themselves "hula sisters" – want to dance perfectly when honoring Pele.

It is always tempting with dancers to show the whole body, but by cropping in like this I was trying to suggest more with less. For me, this image shows the seriousness with which hula dancers approach their art, even girls of this age. I see in the photograph innocence, power and a sense of 'ohana (family).

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