Fresh Faces of Ampersand

Not long ago, opportunities for Maui’s finest dancers were few and far between. Enter Rebecca Owen and Amelia Nelson, the founders of two new Maui dance troupes. The leaders are cultivating professional-level dance opportunities for adults, as well as showcasing isle talent for the community at large.

Their dance troupes will team up this weekend to present an evening of original choreography during “inside ampersand” on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Steppingstone Playhouse in Kahului.

“Dance is such an integral part of our work,” said Maui Academy of Performing Arts Executive and Artistic Director David Johnston. “While we’re fortunate that prominent Mainland dance companies perform on Maui, there is so much talent right here in our own community that deserves to be seen. We want to support their continuing development as artists.”

MAPA’s ampersand dance company was formed in 2012 under the direction of its artistic director Owen. In addition to Owen, the company includes Katira Arak, Ajja DeShayne, Jenna Kamikawa, Katie Talbot, Alannah Pascua and Cristin Ertel.

The production “inside ampersand” will also feature a piece by Nelson’s Adaptations Dance Theater. Though both are based on Maui, the troupes are intrinsically different. Adaptations (also founded in 2012), comprising Nelson, Hallie Hunt Armato, Vanessa Cerrito and Nicole Humphrey, might make you think you’re seeing a company from New York or Chicago, rooted in ballet and modern schools like the Joffrey.

The influences of ampersand range from hip-hop and pop to Broadway, ballet and tap.

The Maui Arts and Cultural Center is also expanding its dance productions from last week’s “FatBoy” to upcoming performances by “Bad Boys of Dance,” “Aspen Santa Fe Ballet,” “Rhythmic Circus: Feet Don’t Fail Me Now!,” and Wednesday night’s “The Spoken World,” starring Marc Bamuthi Joseph. He describes this new medium as “choreo-poem” – but it’s much richer than poetry combined with dance. It is perhaps hip-hop opera with Fosse dexterity. In 2011, I listed Joseph’s “Word Becomes Flesh” as a top 10 stage moment and the most flawless stage show on Maui that year.

The former Broadway star of Tony-winning “The Tap Dance Kid” has been honored by Smithsonian Magazine as one of “America’s top young innovators in the arts and sciences.” He is a National Poetry Slam champion, and winner of the 2011 Alpert Award and U.S. Artists/Rockefeller Fellow. In “The Spoken World,” he articulates the story of achieving manhood in the United States through the lens of hip-hop, global travel and urban environmental health.

Joseph returns to Maui with “The Spoken World” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Castle Theater. General admission tickets are $28 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event, visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at

With so many shows in the same week, it’s difficult to convey the quality and superior performances in Seabury Hall’s “Hamlet.” The Seabury set, costumes, design, lighting and music were impeccable. Zeb Mehring, in the title role, delivers one of the finest youth performances seen on Maui, equivalent to a young actor making a professional debut in regional theater. Also of note were the performances of Zo Harrelson-Louie as Ophelia and Mikela Wesson as Polonius, portrayed as a Hillary Clinton-like advisor to King Claudius (Taka Tsutsui). Director Todd Van Amburgh’s gender-bending of this character, plus the modern additions to the play, were brilliant choices. His flawless cutting moves the story forward swiftly, making the tale more accessible to the masses. The youth ensemble offers a quality Shakespeare production equal to any recent adult Shakespeare performance on Maui.

“Hamlet” continues through this weekend at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sunday in the A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center at Seabury Hall in Makawao. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 573-1257 or visit

Apples and oranges, you just can’t compare them diametrically. What Seabury offers in high drama, Baldwin High delivers in laugh-out-loud ridiculousness. The large crowd of of children howled with laughs at Sunday’s performance of “Cinderella’s Glass Slipper.” The ridiculous costumes and colorful set (all created and built by the students) was something out of a cartoon, and director Linda Carnevale’s very funny cast hammed it up with outlandish voices and frenzied slapstick. A few of the funniest moments included Lana Canton’s skillful performance as the stepmother, Nina Magnini and TJ Idemoto’s scene-stealing depictions as the dreadful stepsisters, Jay Agasid’s Majordomo and Veronica Russell’s amusing take on the flighty Fairy Godmother. Under the direction of Tana Larson, “Cinderella” also has several first-rate musical moments with “Dream of Tomorrow,” sung by Hannah Lewis as Cinderella, and later reprised with Makana Gabin, as the Prince. Another favorite of mine was “Ladies of Fashion,” sung by Canton and the stepsisters. Once again the Baldwin teens have provided a whimsical musical farce for children of all ages.

“Cinderella’s Glass Slipper” runs through this weekend at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 5 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 5 p.m. Sunday in the Loudon Mini-Theatre at the back of the campus. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 seniors and teachers, $7 ages 11 to 17, and $6 ages 10 and under available at the box office only one hour prior to showtime.