photo: Andrea Torres

This month Samadhi Hawaii will celebrate 10 years of producing high quality work in the art of aerial dance performance with their production, Samadhi Live on September 20. This night promises to be a highlight of showcasing amazing aerial dances for your visual pleasure. Originally started in Maui but now based in Honolulu, Samadhi has performed at various events quickly establishing itself as a premiere aerial performance company. But how did this all come about? We flew in to enquire by talking with the director of Samadhi, Andrea Torres.

Happy birthday. How proud are you that you’ve reached 10 years?
Time flies! Yes proud :). 4 years since we started on Maui, and 6 years in Honolulu.

How are the preparations coming along for your celebration?
In the midst of ongoing classes & gigs rehearsals are picking up. Samadhi Live will showcase all aspects of what Samadhi has become in the past 10 years. We have the Faculty of the school and the Youth Company, some advanced students and Volary Aerial Burlesque plus the amazing musicians joining us! It all starts with a vision and little by little things shift and change naturally to fall into place. If I had a million dollar budget, everyone would be in one place everyday rehearsing, yea! But we don’t, (we are) more of a community of artists sharing our time and passion.

You’ve got an impressive line up of special guests. Can you please explain your collaborative work with them and how they will add to your celebration?
Working with live music is my absolutely favorite thing. Each faculty has a piece in the show with a musician of their choice. Each piece rehearses on their own. The songs are decided together with the musicians who are Starr Kalahiki and Taimane Gardner; both are theatrical performers, so it is easy to collaborate with them.

Who else will be performing?
Aerialist performers will consist of myself, Danielle Cohen, Jesa Simpkins, Wainani Hansen, Marie Takazawa who will actually have dancers in her piece. Ana Prada, a Samadhi founder is also helping with aerial choreography. Plus we will have the Samadhi Youth Company & Trapeze Students directed by Nicole Young. And the Youth Company will also perform Floor Acro, directed by Erzsi Palko. With a special Duo treat by Chris Johnson and Erzsi Palko.

Musicians are: Starr Kalahiki, vocals; Taimane Gardner on ukulele with her band which includes Jazzy, guitar; Nia, percussion; Sharene Taba, harp; Mike Gonhata, taiko drums; Amber Crago, didgeridoo; Mario Nanguse, piano and Elika Santos, vocals.

In the last ten years there have been a lot of physical artist performers coming through the art scene, which is great. In the beginning of setting up Samadhi, was it difficult to find artists who have a background in physical theatre, aerial art or movement artists that you can work with?
The difficult part with aerialists is keeping with the discipline and commitment. But with having a school and a studio, we end up working with the people that keep showing up and want to be a part of the work. People come and go, and that’s natural. I don’t take anything personal nowadays. Life is short.

Samadhi Hawaii has certainly elevated the profile of aerial dance here. Was this a challenge for you?
Yes, in the sense that we keep certain standards but mostly with the confidence that we do have our own style.

Tell us about where you see Samadhi Hawaii going from here?
Locally, to keep working on our curriculum for the school. Plus creating more opportunities of community performances for our Youth Company and students that wish to perform. With the Company – continue performing, creating and learning – some of us will be going to Toronto for an Aerial Festival, the day after the show. Also, I’ve been traveling to the South Pacific, Fiji and next Samoa, introducing Aerials there. It would be nice to have a studio/performance space of our own one day…but for now I’m happy where we are. Its been a blessing from the beginning. I just hope to keep creating, learning, teaching, sharing and still loving it.

What is your background in aerial dance and how did you become an aerialist?
I was hired by Arra Montreal, to be an Aerialist in ‘Ulalena, back in 1998. They took me to Montreal for training and then Maui for rehearsals. I relocated to Maui and performed in the show on and off for about 8 years. I have been a dancer/ballerina my entire life. When (I was) hired to become an Aerialist, my director told me: “We want you to dance in the Air” and that’s why I had to learn to be in the air :)

What has this journey been like?
A wonderful journey. Pretty much after learning basic aerial skills, I adapted and made them my own style. I wasn’t strong like a gymnast or an Olympic athlete, so I had to be creative with what I could do. Nowadays I’m a bit stronger, but it has been a long journey. From inside the theatre I took Aerials outside, hanging from the most beautiful trees and at incredible locations in Hawai’i. Can’t beat that feeling of union with nature. A wonderful journey and to also see the arts expanding here – I feel complete, kinda Samadhi state :)

Thank you.
O’ahu Fringe Festival wishes Samadhi Hawaii a wonderful birthday celebration and may they continue dancing in the air for more years to come. For more information and to buy tickets to their birthday celebration, please visit Samadhi Hawaii.