Bringing them home

Maui’s talented dancers return with worldwide experience

Nicole Yezzi falls into the arms of fellow Adaptations Dance Theater performers during a rehearsal for “Bring it Home,” which will be presented at the ‘A‘ali‘ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao this weekend. Ajja DeShayne photo

“I love thinking about beginnings,” said the co-founder of Adaptations Dance Theater, Hallie Hunt, when asked how ADT began in 2012. “If I fall back in memory to the first moments that ADT began formation, I remember wanting to continue my professional dance career as a performing contemporary dancer and realized there was not a place for me to do that on Maui.

“I felt that my option was either move back to San Francisco or take the scarier step and create a place for the kind of dance I love here on this island with the amazing community that surrounds us. This choice has challenged me professionally and artistically.”

This weekend ADT will present the second annual “Bring it Home” performance featuring a cast of Maui-based and guest artists with local ties in an effort to impact the contribution a professional dance theater can have on Maui’s greater arts community.

I asked Hunt about the genesis of ADT.

“Maui has absolutely terrific dance schools — MAPA (Maui Academy of Performing Arts), AAPA (Alexander Academy of Performing Arts), and Seabury (Hall) produce exceptional talent.

“The teachers give top rate dance education to all of the students and provide fantastic performing opportunities,” explained Hunt. “However, there is not the next step example of what happens after your dance education finishes. I want the students to feel that they have a professional company on their home island so they can witness what a dance career looks like. Whether Maui’s youth goes on to dance elsewhere or to stay to work with ADT, there will be a way for these talented young people to give their art to their home community.”

“Bring It Home” guest choreographer and performer Ali McKeon grew up dancing at MAPA, and after graduating from Baldwin High School, headed to California to study at Stanford University and University of California-Irvine, where she received her Master’s degree. While in college she continued her dance training, which led to a position with the Menlowe Ballet in California. McKeon also founded her own Bay Area-based dance company, Ali McKeon Dance Project.

“I am thrilled that ADT is thriving and providing opportunities for artists like myself who feel such a strong pull to the islands to share our professional creative voices here,” said McKeon.

McKeon’s piece, “In Between Infinite,” is a three-movement contemporary work.

“The audience can expect to find luxurious, indulgent movement, sweeping duets, rigorous, dramatic group work and breathtaking unity amongst the dancers,” she said.

Joining McKeon as a guest choreographer is Nathaniel Hunt. Over the years, Hunt has created a bond with Maui’s dance schools as a performer, mentor and guest teacher. Hunt has performed all over the world as a company member of Alvin Ailey II and currently with New York City’s Ballet Hispanico.

“It has been a complete honor to return to Maui and set new material on such diverse dancers,” said Hunt. “From my years working and traveling in the professional dance world, there is truly nothing like Adaptations Dance Theater.”

His original piece, “Patched,” was created specifically for nine dancers of ADT.

” ‘Patched’ contains a physically-demanding movement vocabulary, an invigorating musical score, intricate yet continuous partnering, and visually pleasing special patterns to illustrate honest and real human experiences” he said.

Works by ADT resident choreographers Amelia Couture and Hunt round out the 2017 “Bring it Home” program. Hunt will present “A Few Elements,” a three-part dance theater work.

“The inspiration came from adding a single element to each of the three movements that the dancers must contend with,” Hunt explained. “I tackled the first two sections and my choreographic partner, Amelia Couture, tackled the third.”

Hunt wishes the “Elements” to remain a surprise, but hinted that one dancer will fall from above. 

The 2017 cast will also include two graduated seniors, Ashley Krost and Emily McKeon (Ali’s younger sister). Both have grown up dancing at AAPA and MAPA respectively, and will be furthering their dance education at mainland colleges in the fall.

“When I look back on my experience with ADT, I am blown away from how much I have learned, as an apprentice and a performer,” said Krost. “Not only did ADT have an enormous impact on my dancing, but I also learned a lot about marketing and what it takes to run a dance company. It is amazing to know that there is a place to come home to in the future as a dancer.”

* Friday’s performance is a 21 and older event and includes the opening night gala, which begins at 5:30 p.m., and after-party. The $55 admission includes complimentary pupu, dessert and one kombucha drink. Attendees may bring their own beer and wine. All ages are welcome to the 7 p.m. Saturday performance and tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for age 12 and younger. For more information, visit www.adaptationsdance