The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

SE student performs hula as side hobby

By marley malenfant/se news editor

She isn’t a character out of Hawaii Five-0, but SE student Melita Mensah likes to dance the hula.

Mensah has performed hula professionally for a year. Having grown up in Queens, N.Y., she moved to Texas in 2008. Mensah said her interest in hula was simply from word of mouth.

“My neighbor told me about it, and I thought ‘Well, that’s different than, say, like ballet,’” she said. “I love exposing myself to different things, just things you typically wouldn’t see every day.”

Mensah said she always liked to dance and try things from an early age.

“No lie, but I’ve been dancing since I was seven months,” she said. “I do a little salsa, a little merengue. I did cheerleading in middle school. With hula, it took me two practices, and I picked it up.”

Mensah said hula carries a lot of history. She said hula dancers use lots of hand motions to tell stories.

“Hula symbolizes things,” she said. “There is a hula dance called Lili’ue that describes the features of a woman. You never move your upper body. Your posture has to be good. It looks very uniform. Mostly lower body movements.” 

Mensah said hula has eight basic steps.

“You have to understand the different moves to perform hula,” she said.
“There is the Kaholo, Hela, ‘Uwehe, Lele‘uwehe, ‘Ami, ‘Ami Kuku, Kawelu and the Ka’o. Performing the ‘Uwehe is like trying to rub the top of your head and rub your belly at the same time. You have to move two things at once.”

Mensah’s hula instructor LaVerne Nunes said despite being in Texas, hula has a large following.

“You don’t think of hula in Texas, but people get excited about hula when you tell them you’re going to perform,” she said.

Nunes said hula dancers tend to have stereotypes.

“They say we live in grass huts and wear grass skirts with a flower in our hair and wear coconut bras like we live in a third-world country,” she said. “That’s all nonsense. Hula is very disciplinary. There is Auana, which is very modern, and there is Kahiko, which is traditional.”

Mensah said hula can be educational and a way to meditate.

“Hula is not only a way of dance, but it’s very relaxing to do,” she said. “After doing this for a while, you start to understand yourself a bit more.”

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