Pic of the Week: Hula Hula

When I was a kid, my dad went to Hawaii for work and brought back grass skirts and shell necklaces for me and my sister. I can remember prancing about the house mimicking what I thought at the time was a hula dance, likely influenced by watching too much “Fantasy Island.”

UNUKUPUKUPU / Abby Brack Lewis

According to the International Encyclopedia of Dance, the origins of hula are shrouded in legend. One story describes the adventures of Hi’iaka, who danced to appease her fiery sibling, the volcano goddess Pele. The Hi’iaka epic provides the basis for many present-day dances.

On Tuesday, hula dancer troupe UNUKUPUKUPU took to the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium stage to perform ancient dances and songs, rooted in the sacred `Aiha`a Pele (Ritual Dance of Volcanic Phenomena). The group is from the Hālau Hula (Hula School) of Hawaii Community College, Hilo, Hawaii. To experience the particular fiery style of hula termed `Aiha`a Pele, one is trained to call up the fire within the body and to dance until sweat shines at the temples and forehead.

The performance was featured as part of the popular “Homegrown: The Music of America” concert series presented by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in cooperation with the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. The series, which is free and open to the public, brings the multicultural richness of American folk arts from around the country to the nation’s capital. Here’s a schedule of future performances.

Concerts are recorded and most are later made available on the Library of Congress website. Previous years’ concerts can be viewed here.


An Answer for Everything: 10 Years of “Ask a Librarian”

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Ask a Librarian reference service. Through the service, users from around the world can submit online reference questions to the Library and receive responses from Library staff. On average, the reference staff receives more than 58,000 inquiries per year. In 2011, more than 62,000 inquiries were received […]

So — What Books Shaped You?

In conjunction with the Monday launch of an exhibition at the Library of Congress titled “Books That Shaped America” as part of its overarching Celebration of the Book, the Library of Congress is making public a list of 88 books by Americans that, it can be argued, shaped the nation over its lifetime. It’s not […]

Mr. Morrill Goes to Washington

On Monday (June 25) at the Library of Congress – in a conference anybody can attend, free of charge – the contributions of a congressman you’ve probably never heard of, but really should know about, will be explored. Justin Morrill of Vermont may never be as well-known as his executive-branch supporter in these endeavors, Abraham […]

Legends Unplugged

On Monday, the Library of Congress announced its recent acquisition of audio interviews from of our most celebrated music icons courtesy of retired music executive Joe Smith. More than 230 hours of recorded interviews feature the likes of Bo Diddley, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and others discussing all manners of things, from their […]

Laurels for Morrill

(The following is a guest post by Mark Hartsell, editor of the Library’s staff newsletter, The Gazette.) The Library of Congress this month will celebrate the legacy of a man who helped bring higher education to millions of Americans and who played a key role in the creation of one of the nation’s most splendid […]

Growing a Family Tree

In addition to today being Flag Day (you can read more about that here), June 14 is also Family History Day. This actually makes me think of my dad, who has become quite the budding genealogist. Over the last several months, he has been extensively researching our family tree. Apparently one of my very distant […]

Literate Critters

When it comes to priceless art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has quite a bit, including a trove of Raphaels. But the Library of Congress (on its National Book Festival site, now live at www.loc.gov/bookfest) has a new Rafael López National Book Festival poster for 2012 that’s priceless, too – because you […]

In Retrospect: May Blogging Edition

In addition to the Library of Congress blog that you’re reading right now, the institution has brought several other blogs into the fold. And, let me tell you, they are writing about some great things. From time to time, I hope to give a shout out to these blogs and direct your attention to what […]

A Southern Stanza

( The following is a guest article about the Library’s new Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, written by my colleague Mark Hartsell, which appears in the Library’s staff newsletter, the Gazette.) The writing of Natasha Trethewey explores a past that often is unsettling – growing up biracial in 1960s Mississippi, the lives of forgotten African-American soldiers […]