Dance: In Praise of the Goddess

Pele Hula flourishes in a Hawaiian cultural revival

An old woman wearing a crown of green mountain ferns and drapery that looks vaguely Grecian stands alone, arms upraised, and chants in a strong voice to ancient gods. This is polite and also prudent. Kau'i Zuttermeister, 78, is a hula dancer, and she accepts mainland Christianity, first brought to the Hawaiian Islands in 1820 by missionaries. But her uncle Sam Pua Haaheo, an elderly kahuna, or expert practitioner, who taught her the chants, dances and drumming patterns of traditional hula 60 years ago, told her to "pray first to the gods of your forefathers. They were here first."

Some still...