Hula to the World
Nani Lim-Yap is one of Hawai`i’s foremost practitioners of traditional dance, both as a dancer and as a kumu hula (master instructor). Though she has performed at Waikoloa Beach Resort on occasion, it is with the troupe she co-led with her sister Leialoha, Halau Na Lei O Kaholoku, that Nani is perhaps most well known. The halau won multiple awards at the Merrie Monarch Festival over the years, and along with her illustrious and talented family — including her well-known siblings Sonny Lim and Lorna Lim — she performs around the world, bringing Hawaiian hula, chant, and song to enchanted audiences eager for a taste of the islands.
“We are keeping the traditions of our kūpuna (respected elders and ancestors) and their stories alive in our time,” she says. “That keeps us connected to the things that they held sacred. In our time, it is very important for us to keep the sacred things sacred.”
Lim-Yap specializes in the ancient style of hula known as hula kahiko. Unlike other forms of hula that are accompanied by modern instruments such as a guitar, `ukulele, or double bass, the hula kahiko is most often accompanied by only a chant and a drum.
“We dance to our language,” she says. “Through the dance, the stories of our kūpuna are being told. As dancers we must be committed to telling those stories.” In that way, the chants are an equally important part of telling the story, just as they are an important part of life in all of traditional Hawai`i.
“We are taught a traditional chant before we begin a class,” Nani says. “There is a chant to enter the room; a chant to put on the skirt. That’s where the power comes from. That is where the mana comes from. We need to prepare our minds about why we came to halau. I always remember that.”