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Keeping Dancers On Their Toes

Former Boston Ballet and Ballet West principal ballerina Romi Beppu, a 1994 graduate of Punahou School, has returned home to open Honolulu Classical Ballet at Ward Warehouse.

“I’ve always enjoyed the coaching aspect of ballet – being part of the creative process in the studio, and then seeing it come to life on stage,” says Beppu, who retired from dancing professionally in 2011. “I had achieved my goal as a principal dancer and it’s time to pass it on to the next generation.”

Romi Beppu in the Honolulu Classical Ballet studio. Leah Friel photo lfriel@midweek.com

Beppu’s passion for ballet started at age 7 when she joined Hawaii State Ballet under the direction of John Landovsky. After high school, she danced professionally at three major ballet companies on the Mainland – American Ballet Theatre in New York, Boston Ballet and then Ballet West in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Some of her career highlights include performing the role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty and Cio-Cio San in Madame Butterfly.

“I was a tomboy growing up, so my mother enrolled me in ballet and other forms of dance,” recalls Beppu. “There was something about ballet that inspired me. It’s a very specific art form. The technique involved, the artistry, the musicality and the stage.

“There are a lot of dif ferent elements involved in classical ballet training. As a kid, I really enjoyed the discipline and the challenge of the art form.”

Honolulu Classical Ballet opened in March and offers classes for children as young as age 3 to adults of any age, and of all levels of dance experience.

“You’d be surprised at the little ones, they are fast learners, it’s amazing” says Beppu. “The music, rhythm and the creativity come naturally. At 3 years old, they are building confidence and self-expression in the Prima classes.

“The oldest student in our Adult Open Technique class is 60 years old. It’s an hour-and-a-half class, catered to the dancer who is interested in learning more about the art, as well as doing it for exercise.”

The Open Technique drop-in class is offered four times a week, and there’s no commitment – you can sign up for a single class ($18), or there’s a 10-class card ($165).

“Ballet is a great form of exercise,” notes Beppu. “It takes muscle strength and engaging your core to stand on one leg, balance, pirouette and jump.

“Ballet dancers are part artist and part athlete.”

And, of course, there are the young ballerinas in Beppu’s advanced technique classes who are training to become professional dancers one day.

“I have been blessed to have danced in so many wonderful ballets, and performed in many leading roles around the world,” says Beppu. “Right now, it’s about the kids here in Hawaii. Helping them realize their dreams and achieve them as I have.”

For more information, visit hcballet.com or call 421-7201.