Coming home to raise a family
By Diane Seo
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Diane Seo
As an original cast member of "The Lion King," Christine Yasunaga experienced the dream life of a big-time Broadway dancer, hanging with celebrities and performing before adoring audiences at one of New York's grandest theaters.
Yasunaga thrived under this thrilling glare for several years, more than fulfilling the hopes she had as a dance protegee at 'Iolani School.
But in 2002, while pregnant with her now 5-year-old daughter, Yasunaga's yearnings took a dramatic twist. She wanted to go home and raise her child among the loving confines of her family and Hawai'i.
In her essay for www.HawaiiMoms.com Yasunaga, 36, explains why she and her husband, Darryl Pellegrini — a former drummer for Chuck Mangione — made the risky career move to relocate to O'ahu in 2004.
"New York has so much to offer, but it never seemed to be home," she wrote. "I always knew that someday I would settle back in Hawai'i to raise my family. Hawai'i is such a beautiful, healthy place to live. But most importantly, I want Myla to grow up in a place where there's lots of love."
Yasunaga's essay about her journey home, as well as a photo gallery of Yasunaga's personal family and career snapshots, can be found on www.HawaiiMoms.com. This feature is part of www.HawaiiMoms.com's "Inspiring Moms" series, an occasional spotlight on prominent Island women.
Name: Christine Yasunaga
Family stats: Married to Darryl Pellegrini for seven years. They have a 5-year-old daughter, Myla.
Education: Graduated from 'Iolani School in 1989. Earned a bachelor's degree in dance from UCLA in 1993.
Professional experience: Born and raised in Hawai'i, Christine Yasunaga spent many years dancing professionally in Los Angeles, New York, Japan and Paris. She was 25 years old when she got her first Broadway job as a dancer in "The King and I." She then spent four seasons as part of the original cast of "The Lion King." She has also danced with Ricky Martin, Bernadette Peters and the LA Contemporary Dance Company.
Yasunaga is now the creator and producer of "Destination: Groove Dance Hawaii," a local dance competition televised on KHNL. She also has performed in "The Nutcracker" with Hawaii Ballet Theater and teaches dance at 'Iolani School and Punahou School. She also teaches Pilates at Heaven on Earth at the Ko'olani condominiums.
Reach Diane Seo at email@example.com.