Bringing it home
Neighbors: Profiles of our community
It all started with four girls dancing in the rain.
On a drizzly evening in 2013, Amelia Couture, Nicole Humphrey, Hallie Hunt and Vanessa Cerrito brought a collective dream to life on a damp stretch of asphalt during the Makawao Third Friday Town Party. That night, a crowd of curious onlookers watched as the four members of the then-nascent Adaptations Dance Theater, clad in poofy ’50s-style dresses, performed a contemporary dance piece set to the music of Otis Redding and Brenda Lee under the glow of street lights.
“We were nervous about it, but we decided to do it and see what happened,” Couture said. “It felt like we were jumping off a cliff — but we were jumping together.”
Clearly, the gamble paid off. Today, under the direction of Couture, Humphrey and Hunt, Adaptations Dance Theater is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit professional dance company that does far more than entertain audiences with original works of art — it also fills a void. The dance company provides professional opportunities to local dancers, who, until recently, had no other option than to leave Maui to pursue a career in dance.
“That’s what it’s all about — creating career opportunities so dancers can stay here or come back,” Humphrey said. “We tumbled into something the community needs.”
For Couture, the mission of Adaptations Dance Theater resonates deeply. Born and raised on Maui, she headed to Utah at the age of 16 to study ballet. But given her limited exposure to ballet during her formative years on Maui, it proved to be a difficult transition.
“It was a jarring experience,” she said.
After working briefly as a ballet dancer, Couture decided to switch gears and pursue a bachelor’s degree in acting — but dance always lingered in the back of her mind.
“It haunted me,” she said.
When she returned to Maui years later, Couture says she longed to dance again. She eventually landed a teaching position at one of her alma maters, the Alexander Academy of Performing Arts. There, she met Hunt, a dancer and choreographer who had moved to Maui from California after deciding to take an indefinite break from touring and performing. But two years after she arrived, Hunt says she was ready to take the stage again.
“I said to myself: ‘If only I could do it here on Maui,’ “ she said. “And then I met Amelia.”
It wasn’t long before Couture and Hunt concocted a plan to take contemporary dance on Maui to the next level — and that’s when the idea for Adaptations Dance Theater began to take shape.
Not long after, Humphrey came into their lives. Shortly after moving to Maui in 2012, she’d come across a YouTube video of the duo performing a piece called “Adaptations” — and promptly sent them an email. At the time, Humphrey was on a self-imposed hiatus from dancing, but saw an opportunity to contribute.
“I wanted to help out with the business side of things,” she said.
But that all changed when Couture and Hunt met her for the first time.
“We looked at her feet and said ‘you’re dancing,’ “ Couture said. “She has really good feet.”
Looking back on it now, Humphrey says it didn’t take much to convince her.
“They made it really hard to say no,” she laughed.
Once Couture and Hunt had recruited Humphrey and Cerrito (Couture’s dance teacher at Seabury Hall), the fledgling dance company was ready to make its public debut.
“We wanted to make an impact artistically,” Hunt said. “I think we’ve accomplished that.”
That’s certainly true. Since it burst onto the scene in 2013, Adaptations Dance Theater has been lauded for its original choreography and breathtakingly beautiful performances.
The dance company has also fulfilled its mission to create a home on Maui for dancers of all stripes; they may vary in age, height, geographic background and training, but all are treated like bona fide professionals.
“We set the bar high,” Humphrey said. “We keep it professional.”
For that reason, Adaptations Dance Theater is in line with other small contemporary dance companies, Couture explained. “Our vision was always to be a professional dance company,” she said.
Without question, Adaptations Dance Theater has made a name for itself. Apart from dazzling audiences and inspiring up-and-coming dancers, the nonprofit has an apprenticeship program and holds workshops and master classes throughout the year. It also hosts two signature performances: the “Dance Maui Festival” in November and “Bring it Home,” which takes place tonight and Saturday night at Seabury Hall’s A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center.
Now in its second year, the aptly named dance concert showcases Maui’s homegrown talent and “brings home” dancers and choreographers who have close ties to the island. A captivating blend of artistry and athleticism, “Bring it Home’s” original contemporary dance pieces will appeal to everyone, Hunt said.
“It’s a varied program,” she said. “It’s inspiring, emotional, joyous and funny.”
Couture, Humphrey and Hunt will be taking the stage this weekend, too, and say they are looking forward to putting their passion on display alongside equally passionate and talented dancers.
They’ve certainly come a long way since their rain-soaked debut in 2013, but Couture, Humphrey and Hunt say they couldn’t have done it without the support of the community.
“This was a dream of all of ours,” Humphrey said. “The support from the community is what made this dream come true. We are so grateful.”
Tickets are still available for both “Bring it Home” performances this weekend at Seabury Hall’s A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center. Tonight’s event begins at 5:30 with an opening night reception, followed by the performance at 7 and an after-party that goes until 10. Tickets are $55 per person and attendees must be 21 and older. The “Bring it Home” (performance only) reprise on Saturday begins at 7 p.m. and tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for kids 12 and under. To purchase tickets, to learn more about Adaptations Dance Theater or to inquire about donor opportunities, visit www.adaptationsdancetheater.com.
* Sarah Ruppenthal is a Maui-based writer. Do you have an interesting neighbor? Tell us about them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Neighbors and “The State of Aloha,” written by Ben Lowenthal, alternate Fridays.