What is a ‘kumu’ in the context of hula?

Discover the role and significance of a ‘kumu’ in the world of hula dancing. Learn about their qualifications, responsibilities, and cultural impact.


Hula, the traditional dance of Hawaii, has deep cultural significance and is often taught and performed by a ‘kumu’. But what exactly is a ‘kumu’ in the context of hula? Let’s delve into the role and importance of a kumu in preserving and passing down the art of hula.

What is a ‘kumu’?

A ‘kumu’ is a teacher, mentor, and respected elder in Hawaiian culture. In the context of hula, a kumu is a master teacher who leads the hula school (halau) and imparts not only dance techniques but also cultural knowledge, history, language, and values.

Role of a kumu

A kumu plays a crucial role in preserving and perpetuating the art of hula. They are responsible for teaching their students the traditional dances, chants, and songs passed down through generations. Kumu also act as cultural ambassadors, educating the community and visitors about the rich history and meaning behind hula.

Qualifications of a kumu

To become a kumu, one must undergo rigorous training and apprenticeship under a master teacher. They must demonstrate proficiency in both dancing and teaching hula, as well as a deep understanding of Hawaiian language, history, and traditions. Many kumu also hold certifications from respected hula organizations.

Case studies

  • Maile Loo-Ching: A renowned kumu hula based in Oahu, Maile is known for her dedication to preserving traditional hula and for her innovative choreography that blends ancient and modern influences.
  • Kumu Hula Association: Founded in 1972, this organization aims to uphold the standards and integrity of hula by certifying kumu hula and promoting cultural exchange and education.

Importance of kumu in hula

Without kumu, the art of hula would be at risk of being lost or diluted. Kumu serve as guardians of tradition, ensuring that the essence and authenticity of hula are maintained for future generations. They instill a sense of pride, respect, and discipline in their students, fostering a deep connection to Hawaiian culture and heritage.


In the world of hula, a kumu is more than just a teacher – they are the keepers of a sacred art form that embodies the spirit and soul of Hawaii. Through their dedication, passion, and expertise, kumu ensure that hula continues to thrive and inspire for years to come.

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