Ballet Hawaii was established in 1975 as “Friends of the Ballet.” Initially it served as the support group to the Honolulu City Ballet whose first Artistic Director was Jim Hutchison. Salaries for the eighteen company dancers and the administrative and technical staff were covered by Federal C.E.T.A. funding. “The Friends” raised money for sets, costumes and production costs to fulfill their mission, which was “to provide performances, demonstrations and programs to educate the public to the art of the Ballet.” The company productions included classics such as Nutcracker and Coppelia. In 1979, the Federal C.E.T.A. funding ran out and with no alternative funding, the Honolulu City Ballet was forced out of existence. “The Friends of the Ballet” remained active, still committed to supporting ballet in Hawaii and found itself taking on the role of implementer and producer of ballet, rather than just being a support group.
In 1980 “The Friends” produced their first Nutcracker Ballet. Dame Sonia Arova and Thor Sutowski were hired as choreographer/directors and many of the former Honolulu City Ballet dancers were featured in the production. Principal dancers from the San Francisco Ballet performed the leading roles. Open auditions were held for adult and children’s parts and rehearsals were held in the old Kaka’ako firehouse. The performances at the Blaisdell were nearly sold out.
This year marks the 40th year of presenting, promoting and developing dance in Hawaii.
Ballet Hawaii performances have included the full-length productions of Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Alice (In Wonderland), as well as an annual performance of Nutcracker. Commissioned new works that have been presented are Urashima Taro and several works by Tau Dance Theatre’s Peter Espiritu. Hawaii’s finest young dancers have been given the opportunity to dance with guest artists from American Ballet Theatre, Bolshoi Ballet, New York City Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Carolina Ballet, Eugene Ballet, among many others. Recent guest artists include star of Broadway’s American In Paris, Robbie Fairchild, Sara Mearns of the New York City Ballet, Steven Heathcote of the Australian Ballet and Meghan Fairchild of Broadway’s On the Town and the New York City Ballet.
Ballet training in the school has a yearly enrollment of over 400 students at all levels of ballet, from pre-ballet to professional. This aspect of the company features master teachers from Ballet Hawaii and from the international ballet world. Recent teachers have included Pierre-Francois Vilanoba of the San Francisco Ballet, Rasta Thomas and Adrienne Canterna of the Bad Boys of Dance, and Vanessa Zahorian Karapetyn and Davit Karapetyn of the San Francisco Ballet.
Summer Intensive Training is a three-week course designed for teachers and dancers at intermediate and advanced levels. An outstanding faculty that consists of dancers and choreographers from around the world give daily classes. Dancers may have the opportunity to participate in a full-length ballet production at the end of the session. Auditions for the performances are held during the first week of Summer Intensive. Few summer ballet intensive programs in the nation provide the caliber of dancers and professional standards that this opportunity offers. Our program draws students from around the state, the mainland, and other countries.
Ballet Hawaii has established itself as a leader in dance presentation in Hawaii. International companies that have been presented are Baryshnikov & Co., Les Ballet de Monte-Carlo, Mark Morris Dance Group, Stars of American Ballet Theatre, Washington Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Theatre, Ballet Stars of Moscow, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, Complexions and Bad Boys of Dance.
Ballet Hawaii continues to offer programs, productions and presentations that contribute to the enrichment of the cultural climate in the community and provide the very best in dance for Hawaii.