What started as a means to cope with Furlough Fridays has turned into a statewide initiative to encourage a thriving dance community.
Dancers Unlimited was conceived at the end of 2009, when director Linda Kuo returned home from New York — while living there she was immersed in its amazing dance culture.
Upon returning to the Islands, Kuo started up Dancers Unlimited (duhawaii.com) and offered free classes to those affected by Furlough Fridays.
“A bunch of teachers recognized that we needed something like National Dance Week Hawaii,” she says. “We have Merrie Monarch, which is great for the hula community, but there’s no festival for (other types of) dancers to come together.”
So National Dance Week Hawaii kicked off in the Islands five years ago, and this year is slated for Sept. 29 to Oct. 6. It once again offers workshops led by top performers in their fields, from hip-hop to ballet to salsa and more.
A full list of workshops is available online at ndw-hawaii.com, where pre-registration also can be completed.
“The week officially starts Sept. 29 on Oahu, but we do have events Sept. 27 on Hawaii island,” says Kuo, who co-directs the effort with Mandy Harpstrite. “We have people from Neighbor Islands coming to me and saying they want to be a part of it, so we made it flexible to have activities and classes that aren’t during the actual week.”
Oct. 3 marks the event’s fundraiser for Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation, which focuses on providing services and care for cancer patients and their families.
“We believe in giving back to the community,” Kuo says. “We bring in master teachers from New York, the pioneers of street dancing. Everything you see that’s hip-hop or house, they were in the original group of teachers who traveled for 25 years to teach.”
Those same teachers also will take part in the Oct. 4 Bboy In Shanghai Qualifier & All-Style Cypher King & Queen.
“That event is to celebrate the spirit of hip-hop — peace, love and unity,” Kuo explains of the Ward Village-sponsored function. “We want to give hiphop a more positive and healthy light. It’s more than just what’s on MTV.”
Keiki and parents can head down to learn DJ techniques, break dancing and beatboxing (taught by Jason Tom).
National Dance Week is 100 percent volunteer-run, and Kuo always is looking for more people to help out. Her goal is to continue to celebrate Hawaii’s diverse cultures in the creative form of dance, while sharing that spirit of aloha with everyone.