A few years back, a lithe, fit, incredibly talented dancer leapt across the stage in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater. In the unlikely event you'd wandered in having missed the ubiquitous articles, promotional posters and islandwide talk about the very special event, you never would have guessed that the powerful, athletic performance was the dancer's retrospective swan song. As impossible as it seemed, the dancer, David Ward, was retiring.
That was back in 2006. Four years later, David Ward, Maui's modern dancer par excellence, may no longer be embarking on grueling multi-island and Mainland tours, but he's certainly not puttering around the house watching "Wheel of Fortune" just yet.
CARL HEFNER photo
Tonight, for instance, Ward flies off to Oahu for a private reception honoring the recipients of Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts' prestigious Individual Artists Fellowship. The reception marks the opening of an inspiring, interdisciplinary retrospective at the Hawai'i State Art Museum showcasing all the artists, crafters, playwrights, dancers, directors, choreographers and musicians who were granted the fellowship from its inception in 1995 through its last inductees in 2008. Ward, who was selected for the $5,000 prize in 1999, was asked to provide video clips of his choreographed work for inclusion in the exhibit. He was more than happy to oblige.
"When I decided to stop touring, I really wanted to focus on the next generation of young artists," Ward said. "It had become increasingly difficult to continue to raise money for the tours. Karen Fischer was such an advocate of supporting local dance; she and the MACC were always so supportive of my work, and I felt it was time to give back."
It's no secret that the current recession has hit the arts hard. People have watched their retirement savings evaporate before their eyes; others have lost jobs or taken pay cuts; municipal and state budgets are spread dangerously thin. Sadly, the arts are often seen as a "luxury" - and the first to get cut from household and state budgets. Artists like David Ward and organizations like the HSFCA work hard to keep the arts alive and center stage. They realize it is the vitality of our arts community that binds us together as a culture.
Since his "retirement," Ward has continued to teach dance at Seabury Hall, choreographing the school's musicals and annual dance showcase. Right now he's busy working on Seabury's fall musical, "The Drowsy Chaperone," which he describes as "a fun little romp, a show-within-a-show, a true ensemble piece."
In the summer, he's inspiring the next generation of dancers in the Pacific Northwest and Arizona, serving as a consultant and running dance intensives at performing-arts high schools and charter schools. Ward is also the co-proprietor of one of the island's only real, old-school cafes-The Green Banana Cafe in Paia. In the few years since it opened, the cafe has become an informal community center, a place where writers go to linger over their words, local activists meet to discuss their next fundraisers, plan sign-waving dates or draw up petitions, and tanned visitors discuss tomorrow's surf conditions with coffee-sipping locals.
"As a business we (The Green Banana Cafe and Yogurt Bar) are really involved in the community," Ward said. "We participate in fundraisers and get involved in local events."
It's all in a day's work for the energetic virtuoso who, four years into his retirement, seems light years from slowing down.
* David Ward's body of work is featured in the exhibit Individual Artist Fellowship: Selected Works by IAF Recipients 1995 2008, opening Friday and running through July 16, 2011 at the Hawai'i State Art Museum, 250 Hotel St. in Honolulu. Admission is always free. For more information call (808) 586-0900.
Maui Film School will offer workshops with award-winning filmmaker Harriette Yahr: Screenwriting Wokshop at Temple of Peace, 525 Haiku Road in Haiku, 1:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday, and Filmmaking/Producing/Directing Workshop at Akaku Maui Community Television Studio on Dairy Road in Kahului from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Registration fee is $75 per class (includes materials and handouts). Weekend discount available for both classes. For more details and to register, visit Maui Film School at www.MauiFilmSchool.com or call 310-712-1293.
It's time to get your tickets for Maui Academy of Performing Arts' annual Garden Party, a fundraiser to benefit MAPA's educational performing arts programs. The event will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12, at the Yokouchi family estate in Wailuku. Sponsored this year by Whole Foods Market and emceed by Mana'o Radio's Kathy Collins, the afternoon will feature the island's top chefs and local artists and offer fine wine, jazz, two auctions and, of course, Fresh Art-site-specific paintings and sculptures created before guests' very eyes as they meander through the picturesque grounds. Tickets are $60 in advance, $70 at the door, $600 for a reserved table for 10, available by phone at 244-8760, at the MAPA office on Church Street in Wailuku, Queen Ka'ahumanu Center's customer service kiosk, Latitudes in Kahului, The Nail Shop in Kihei and Sir Wilfred's on Front Street in Lahaina. This always popular event is for adults 21 and older.