photo: Jermaine Fletcher

National Dance Week has helped to promote the art of dance in various communities in many cities. An offspring of this is the Hawaii branch – National Dance Week Hawaii (NDW-HI). Continuing to nurture dance in our community, NDW-HI has brought together local and international dance practitioners from a variety of genres to Hawai’i for workshops and a lot of dancing. This year’s event will be on September 29 to October 6, 2014. Putting our best dancing feet forward we spoke with the director of NDW-HI, Linda Kuo.

You are turning 5. Congratulations. How does it feel to be producing your year 5 of NDW-HI?
It feels amazing and truly exciting. We are at a very good place where people in the dance community are excited about what we have to offer every year; and non-dancers are also coming on board to support and help out.

Can you expand on the relationship between NDW-HI and National Dance Week?
We are a part of National Dance Week; but due to the limited availability of dancers in Hawai’i during the actual National Dance Week (usually in April), we have decided to celebrate the week in Hawai’i Sept 29 – Oct 6 instead.

What are the benefits of participating at NDW-HI for anyone regardless of their dance training or skill level?
Dance is for everyone, and movement brings people back to the purest form of joy where we are truly connected with ourselves. Dance is a great work out, a stress-reliever, and great entertainment. It brings people together regardless of your background, and NDW-HI welcomes dancers of all ages and skill level to move with us, and explore a different way of expression, meet new friends, and get a good and fun workout while doing so. The best thing is, we offer free and $5 classes, where you can try out classes at a very low (or no) cost.

You annual charity event is an admirable part of NDW-HI. How did this come about?
One of my favorite choreographers, Alvin Ailey, said “Dance is from the people, and should be given back to the people.” I can’t agree with him more on his belief. Dance creates healing and unity, and at NDW-HI, we are not about profiting from dance. We are about giving back to the community that has created the dance forms and dancers that we see around us. The charities we support are an integral part of this community, and we believe in giving back to (do) their good will.

It is great that you reach out to the community. What are the challenges and benefits you’ve encountered in bringing together the dance community to be part of NDW-HI?
The biggest challenge has always been monetary. Putting together an event, especially in Hawaii, is costly. Just flying in master teachers each year cost more than $3K., and then we also have to cover event venues, promotions, and prizes…not to mention all of our volunteers’ time that they contribute selflessly.

Tell us about an incident that highlighted to you the importance of dance in Hawai’i?
Taking Hula classes as a kid and learning about the Hawaiian culture and history from my Kumu. Dance has always been a very important part of the Hawaiian culture; it tells the story of its people and commemorates occasions we want to pass on to the next generation. Now we have many forms of dance in the modern Hawai’i, and each dance style tells the story of a people, a tradition, and a culture that we should share with our keiki. It’s how we grow and move together as a community.

You’ve stated that your ultimate goal is to make Hawai’i a dance festival destination. Can you expand on this and how important is this for you?
We have very talented dancers in Hawaii, but we have to work so much harder to experience what’s “out there.” Our geographic location can be a challenge, but it can also be an advantage. Hawai’i as a dance festival destination would not only bring fresh perspectives and opportunities to our dancers, but also introduce a “non-commercial, non-tourist” version of our ‘aina to our visitors. And what better way to communicate through dance when language may be a barrier? :)

“Dance like no one is watching” – what does this mean to you?
It means dancing for yourself, connecting your body to your mind and soul, and moving freely without judgment and expectation. It’s a very rare moment when one can be free. Be YOU.

How did you get involved in dancing? And how often do you dance like no one is watching?
I was really shy when I was little, so my mom put me in a dance class with my cousin. I think she may have created a monster because I can’t get enough of attention now whenever I’m on stage. Haha. My fiancé and I dance every day at home, most of the time twirling around and jumping like silly kids, and sometimes we pretend we are master ballet dancers. I guess I dance every day like no one is watching.

Thank you.
O’ahu Fringe Festival wishes National Dance Week-Hawaii a successful 5th season of dancing and workshops. For more information on their schedule, artists and how you can be part of this, please visit NDW-HI.

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