The Alexander Academy of Performing Arts studio was a sea of black leotards, pink tights and smiling faces. Julie Andrews' voice soared from the boom box in the corner as lead dancer Ariella Brandon took center stage in a bright blue jacket and prim flowered hat. It was the first full cast rehearsal of "Mary Poppins," a dance performance featuring beginner through advanced Alexander Academy students, combining ballet with contemporary, jazz, hip-hop and musical theater styles.
Alexander Academy is a small dance studio in Kula with a unique philosophy.
"It's all donation-based," said studio director Danelle Watson. "Some people are able to pay the going rate for classes, some people trade, help clean, help us paint, or whatever it is that we need. It creates a really happy place. The community is really happy that we're here."
With her magic umbrella, Mary Poppins (Ariella Brandon) is surrounded by cast members Tatiana Camit (clockwise from let), Megan Kirton, Cristin Ertel, Erika Preseault and Camille Erdman.
Nanci Moes photo
Watson is a veteran teacher and performer who grew up in her mother's dance studio, danced professionally in New York City and has taught in studios across the country. Since she became director of Alexander Academy in 2009, she has worked to expand the number of classes, teachers, and opportunities for her students, despite becoming pregnant with twins the month she started.
Giving her students the chance to perform is a huge priority. "I'm a big believer in performances being a big part of the education, so I knew I had to make it happen," she said.
"Mary Poppins" is the second production she has directed since starting at Alexander Academy. Last year the school produced "The Wizard of Oz."
Watson looks forward to expanding the program even further next year, including offering tap classes in addition to ballet, jazz, contemporary and hip-hop.
"It's always been a dream of mine to have my own studio," she said. "I have big dreams for this place."
* "Mary Poppins" takes the stage at 2 and 6 p.m. Sunday at the Maui Theatre in Lahaina. Tickets are $25 and $15 for VIP and $20 and $10 for premium. Call 661-9913 for tickets or 878-8970 for information.
"The Vagina Monologues": V-Day Maui 2011 presents a production of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues" to benefit Women Helping Women. Join Marilyn Hirashima, Sodengi Mills, Kristi Scott, Rochelle Dunning and Kathy Collins to raise funds and awareness to end violence against women and girls.
* "The Vagina Monologues" comes to Steppingstone Playhouse in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center at 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20. Call 242-6600 for tickets.
"Couples": Maui OnStage presents a one-night-only performance of "Couples," a series of five comedy vignettes directed by Lee Garrow. Live music, dancing and complimentary snacks and beverages will follow the one-hour romantic comedy.
* "Couples" comes to the Historic Iao Theater at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Donations are encouraged.
Imago Theater's "ZooZoo": Filling the stage with wit, wonder, acrobatics and mime, "ZooZoo" features the best of Imago's acclaimed productions "FROGZ" and "Biglittlethingscharacters." Imago has been hailed by critics and family audiences worldwide for its highly entertaining, wordless productions, inspiring joy for kids and parents alike.
* "ZooZoo" takes the stage at 7:30 tonight at Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $12, $28 and $38, plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.MauiArts.org.