The sounds of ancient Hawaiian chants and rhythmic drumbeats fill the air as Aulani Resort debuts its newest holiday show, He Mo‘olelo Hemolele. Translating to “A Sacred Story of Faith, Hope and Aloha”, this vibrant performance weaves Hawaiian legends, customs and values into a celebration of the Christmas season. Premiering on December 9, 2023 at the resort’s scenic Hālāwai Lawn overlooking the beach, He Mo‘olelo Hemolele enraptures guests of all ages. Its components reflect various facets of Hawaiian culture while conveying universal holiday themes.
Transportive Music and Dance
The show opens with a procession of traditionally dressed dancers emerging, their grass skirts and flower leis rustling to the pulsing tempo of ipu heke gourd drums. As they take positions around the lawn’s central fire pit, the lead dancer signals the start with an ululating chant. Arrayed behind her, an ensemble of musicians pluck melodies on ‘ukulele and slack key guitars, weaving intricate counterpoints.
Their playing underscores vigorous hula routines, with gestural meanings encoded into every twist of the wrist and hip. A chorus of voices chimes in, singing mele chants that echo across the open-air venue. During slower songs, barefoot female dancers render graceful motions resembling trees swaying or waves lapping gently at the shore. These give way to faster numbers as the entire troupe moves in sync, stomping and circling the fire in vibrant tribute to Laka, goddess of the hula.
The performance derives its name from the central appearance of “Uncle”, a master Hawaiian storyteller. Clad in patterned kapa cloth with a lei draped around his neck, Uncle shares mo‘olelo (legends) that connect to Hawaiian holiday traditions. His first tale describes the voyage of the Makali‘i, a mythical canoe that sails among the stars as the constellation Pleiades. The story metaphorically links this star cluster’s annual return to the Hawaiian skies in November with the arrival of the holiday season.
Uncle later recounts the legend of Māui slowing the sun’s passage, so there would be more daylight hours to labor during winter months. This theme of hope and perseverance parallels the meaning behind Christmas. As Uncle spins these tales, scenes from the stories play out through hula. Dancers use graceful hand motions to signify stars glittering in the night sky or the sun’s blazing journey across the heavens. Their visual interpretations make the myths come alive before the enraptured crowd.
He Mo‘olelo Hemolele manifests Hawaiian identity by showcasing performing arts, oral histories and native belief systems. It promotes cultural understanding for visitors while also fostering community connections. Many cast members hail from local hālau hula (hula schools) where they have trained extensively in the dance’s spiritual and artistic facets. Their dedication and discipline shine through in this showcase of living Hawaiian culture. Similarly, the musician ensemble and chanters possess specialized knowledge passed down across generations.
By sharing their expertise here, they help perpetuate cultural practices that have endured for centuries. Ultimately, the show fulfills Aulani Resort’s mission to honor Hawaiian heritage through authentic experiences. It represents Disney’s ongoing commitment to celebrating diversity as the property continues integrating local culture into its offerings. The sounds of ancient Hawaiian chants and rhythmic drumbeats fill the air as Aulani Resort debuts its newest holiday show, He Mo‘olelo Hemolele. Translating to “A Sacred Story of Faith, Hope and Aloha”, this vibrant performance weaves Hawaiian legends, customs and values into a celebration of the Christmas season.