'How do they do it?" I remember wondering, watching Madonna and her backup singers, Donna De Lory and Niki Haris, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas during the 2001 "Drowned World" tour. For two hours, the women danced and strutted through numerous costume changes and elaborate choreography - all while singing at full volume, and never getting out of breath!
Eight years later, De Lory - now a successful solo artist - lets me in on the secret: "A really good sound man!"
"He would ride our vocal mikes, and whoever was out of breath, he'd balance the vocals," she says.
Donna De Lory
Beyond that, of course, it helps to be in top physical condition and an experienced professional, like De Lory. Still, she recalls nights in huge arenas from Paris to Tokyo when the cigarette smoke was so thick it was a challenge to breathe, let alone sing and dance.
These days, De Lory has traded the smoky arenas for the incense-wafting sanctuaries of temples, churches and yoga studios - like The Studio Maui in Haiku where she'll be performing this weekend. In these places, she discovered, she can not only sing and dance and breathe, but also connect on a deeper level with her audience.
"The music I'm making has lent itself to new venues," De Lory says by phone from her Los Angeles home.
* Donna De Lory will perform three shows this weekend. The first two are at The Studio Maui: a concert with Cameron and talented tabla player Ty Burhoe on Friday, and a "5 Rhythms Sweat Your Prayers" dance with Amara Pagano and Kabba Anand on Saturday. The events begin at 7:30 p.m., with dinner available (not included in the ticket price) on Friday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance; $25 at the door. The performances also commemorate a workshop taking place this weekend at the Studio featuring Anusara Yoga Founder John Friend and spiritual teacher and author Ram Dass. For more information, visit www.thestu diomaui.com. On Sunday at 7 p.m., De Lory will perform at Island Spirit Yoga in Lahaina. Tickets are $20.
"The songs are a lot deeper and more heart-centered and devotional" - a switch from her first solo efforts, which were more pop-focused.
Her ninth and latest CD is called "Sanctuary," featuring songs that are uplifting, soothing and spiritual; what she calls "meditative music." But De Lory never strays too far from her roots in dance. "Even when I try to make a really mellow CD, it ends up being pretty rhythmic!" she says. Most of her songs can be easily remixed into enticingly danceable tracks.
"I want to allow people the space: if they want to sit there and meditate, or if they want to get up and dance, I want to encourage them," she says. "I love it when people are dancing, just doing their thing, being who they are, feeling oneness but having their own unique experience."
When De Lory is in concert, she's usually dancing. "When I move, my breath gets deeper, and it helps me get deeper with my singing," she says. "Dancing professionally, I could sing better notes when my heart rate was up."
De Lory performed with Madonna on six international tours, from "Who's That Girl?" in 1987 to "Confessions" in 2006. In 1993, she released her self-titled debut on MCA, and soon after, began to delve deeper into world music, studying belly dance and Indian drumming. As the exotic rhythms began to reflect themselves in her work, she left MCA and in 2000, collaborated with cellist Cameron Stone to release "Bliss" on her own label.
"We just made this beautiful music that we loved, but I didn't know where it would be performed," De Lory says.
After trying out the bar atmospheres of places like L.A.'s House of Blues and the Viper Room, De Lory was invited to play in the huge Agape Church for an audience of thousands. The joyful response that blossomed out of that environment was astounding, and led to her current tour through places of devotion and spiritual awakening.
"I've found my community, my own voice," she says. "It's music and dance that gets you out of your mind and body and into your breath."
And the best part is, there's no smoking in yoga studios.
Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" (Female Version) wraps up its short run at the Historic Iao Theater. When her husband leaves her, Florence Ungar (Jennifer Rose) moves in with her longtime friend Olive Madison (Camille Romero). There's just one problem: Florence is a compulsive neat freak, and Olive is the ultimate easygoing slob. The unlikely combination results in nonstop laughs and a lighthearted reminder of the value of true friendship.
The Maui OnStage production is directed by Mark Collmer and also features Kathy Collins, Beth Garrow, Jesse Rogers, Kevin Wilson, Nicholas Batres and Tasha Bradon. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, $15 for Sunday matinee; available at If the Shoe Fits in Wailuku, online at www.mauionstage.com, or by calling 242-6969. Dinner theater packages are available on Friday and Saturday for $40 at Caf O'Lei just down the street; reservations must be paid for in advance by calling 244-8680. (See review on Page 5.)
The imagery of Hawaii will blossom forth in music and dance on Saturday evening, as Maui's own award-winning na kumu hula Napua Greig and Kahulu Maluo-Huber present Mohala Mai 2009 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater. With the name meaning "To Blossom Forth," the event will showcase the talents of Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka in an evening filled with both traditional and contemporary hula, oli and mele. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $32. Applicable fees are added to tickets for all MACC shows, available at the MACC box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.
Maui OnStage is gearing up for "Rocktober at the Iao Theater: A Month of Horror and Fun." They'll start things off with a free keiki performance of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2, as part of First Friday festivities in Wailuku. As the night goes on, there will be a free screaming - oops, screening, of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at 8 p.m., as well as themed body painting by master artist Rachel DeBoer, costumed characters and audience participation. For more information, call 242-6969 or visit www.mauionstage.com.