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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 1, 2002

Local dancer returns home to take center stage

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

 •  Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

8 p.m. Saturday 4 p.m. Sunday

Leeward Community College Theatre

$35 adults, $25 students, seniors, military 455-0385

Also: At 7 p.m. Tuesday at Kahilu Theatre, Waimea, Big Island; $28, $21, $14, at the box office. (808) 885-6868.

Chalk it up to perseverance and persistence: After four, maybe five auditions over a four- or five-year period, Hawai'i's Charlaine Katsuyoshi finally made it into the roster of the 20-member Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

"It's been about 2 1/2 years now," said Katsuyoshi, about her life with the elite company she admired from the sidelines since her college days at the University of California-Irvine. "I was persistent ... I loved the diversity of their repertoire. The dancers are technically trained. I love their style, which runs the gamut."

She's even happier that she's home to perform with the Hubbards this weekend at Leeward Community College, part of a three-island tour that started last night on Maui and continues Tuesday on the Big Island.

And, Katsuyoshi said last week, "I have additional reason to celebrate. I turn 25 on March 1. It'll be the first time I'll be home for a birthday since I turned 16."

Katsuyoshi, a member of Iolani School's class of '94, had just checked into a Seattle hotel when the phone rang for a pre-arranged interview.

"I just got in from Chicago," she said, referring to the company's home base — and hers.

"Traveling is one of the best parts of being a performer, seeing different places, connecting with friends in different cities," she said.

But her first stop (sorry, Zippy's), usually straight from the airport, is Helena's Hawaiian Food. "She's my grandmother, and I go straight there, for poi and laulau," she said. "It's what I miss most, living in Chicago. I'll eat as much as I want, and I long for it when I'm on the road. But it's not the same when the family ships it."

Katsuyoshi joined Hubbard in June 1999, and earned full-company status in September 1999.

"I wanted to be part of the company ever since I saw them in college," she said. "I loved the range of the dancing, from jazz to Broadwayesque; contemporary, but not of the street-dancing style."

In Honolulu, she had danced ballet and jazz, with Ballet Hawai'i, Hawai'i Ballet Theatre and Honolulu Dance Theatre. "I was in 'Nutcracker' every year," she said. "And 'The Firebird.'"

She had trained in ballet as a youngster and dwelled on modern dance in college. She finished her education in three instead of the customary four years, earning her bachelor of arts in dance, so she was ready for a leap into a dance company.

Before joining Hubbard, Katsuyoshi was a member of Momix, and was part of that company's earlier visit to Hawai'i. She also danced on the "Fame" TV series and appeared in the movie "Blade."

"But being in Hubbard has broadened my horizons, through travel," she said.

"The company has toured internationally, in the Middle East, Europe, South America, and hopefully, we'll go to China someday. Audiences love us, and it's kind of like being an ambassador, since we're all Americans."