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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 5, 2006

Mid-Pac students step up on and off the stage

By Carol Egan
Special to The Advertiser

Mid-Pacific Institute dance students Natashia Ho, left, and Olivia Simpson watch a rehearsal earlier this week at Paliku Theater.

Photos by JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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7:30 p.m. today and Saturday

Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College

$25; limited tickets available


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Ho and Simpson take a turn on stage in preparation for the Young Choreographers concerts this weekend at Windward Community College.

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5 p.m. Sunday

Hawai'i Theatre

$20-$50; limited tickets available


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It's been a big year for Mid-Pacific Institute dance students, and it's a big weekend, too, as they put their talents on display in two separate events:

  • The Young Choreographers Concert, tonight and tomorrow night at the Paliku Theatre, features members of the contemporary dance classes.

  • The hula students present their annual concert Sunday afternoon at the Hawai'i Theatre.

    Both groups have reason to celebrate.

    In March, 14 students of modern dance attended the eighth National High School Dance Festival in Miami. Of the 100 schools attending, only 25 were invited to perform in the Gala Concert. Not only was Mid-Pacific selected, but all eight students who were eligible to audition for summer scholarships were awarded offers to attend institutes such as Michigan's Interlochen Center for the Arts, the Boston Conservatory and the American Dance Festival in North Carolina. Several of these students will present their own choreography.

    For the hula dancers, this year's concert also offers a special treat. In November, 10 of these students were invited to participate in the first Conference on Dance in Oceania in New Zealand, co-sponsored by the University of Hawai'i Center for Pacific Island Studies.

    There they developed friendships with students from the University of Victoria in Wellington and a hip-hop artist from Auckland. In exchange for their visit to New Zealand, the Mid-Pacific dance students have invited these friends to appear on their program.

    Yukie Shiroma, outgoing director of the dance program at Mid-Pacific, offered a little history during a recent interview.

    "It was 1987. I had just finished my M.F.A. at UH, and I was on my way to New York to dance." Before leaving, however, she was asked to interview for a job opening at Mid-Pacific. Although Shiroma intended to pursue her own career, she was intrigued by the chance to create a dance program within a School of Performing Arts.

    Despite originally committing to only one year, Shiroma will have been at Mid-Pac for 19 years when she retires at the end of the term. Thousands of students have passed through the program.

    In addition to building a strong curriculum for both the dance and dance/hula programs (Michael Nalanakila Casupang heads the latter), Shiroma also instituted the Young Choreographers series eight years ago and developed a dance curriculum for the International Baccalaureate Program, headquartered in Wales.

    In 2003, Mid-Pac was chosen as a pilot school by the IBP. Two dance students successfully completed the program in 2005. Both have gone on to study dance at the University of California- Irvine, and UH. Six students are currently following this rigorous program, which consists of studies in performance, composition and research.

    Shiroma continues to be a working artist, serving as co-founder, choreographer and dancer with partner Ben Moffat in their Monkey Waterfall Dance Theatre company.

    This year she will receive her teaching certificate in Okinawan dance from her teacher, Cheryl Nakasone, after studying with her for 30 years.

    As Nakasone recently reminded her, "You'll never get better until you teach" words Shiroma understands only too well.