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Jan 22, 2015

Barre Time at Honolulu Classical Ballet

Ballet is an art form that dates back to the days of Louis XIII and the French aristocracy.

From these classical roots has sprung American ballet, an entity of its own—wild, new, and radical. To its dancers, from those in ballet slippers to prima ballerinas in pointe shoes, it is a vessel for expression, capable of transporting performers to a different time, relaying knowledge to generations to come. For Romi Beppu, one of Hawai'i's preeminent ballet instructors, dancing ballet was just the start of such a journey. After 16 years as a professional ballerina, she decided to open Honolulu Classical Ballet in Ward Warehouse, a place where she could share all her knowledge and expertise with Hawai'i's youth—a place where she could share the stage.

Beppu was born and raised in Hawai'i, where the sun and surf beckoned the teenage girl to social gatherings and the type of mischief girls that age sometimes find themselves in. But dance had already captured her heart and devotion. At age 7, she began her ballet training at Hawaii State Ballet under the direction of John Landovsky. In 1995, she embarked on a career that lead her to debuting with New York City's American Ballet Theatre, touring around the world to faraway lands like Greece, Spain, Japan, and Turkey. In 2005, she became the principal dancer of the Boston Ballet, and in 2008, of Ballet West in Salt Lake City.

Her impressive career has enabled her to be a mentor to all levels of aspiring dancers, all year-round. The decision to retire in spring of 2011 prompted a return home to Hawai'i, and the next phase of her career as the artistic director of Honolulu Classical Ballet. The company's latest performance,

La Danse: Swan Lake Suite premiered January 18 at Saint Louis Schools' Mamiya Theater to a sold-out audience. "We took the traditional classical ballet Swan Lake and gave it a modern twist by cutting and pasting scenes and variations," Beppu said. "We focused on highlighting the dancing in place of the usual storytelling by reworking group pieces and solos, making them current with today's evolving dancing styles and also making them accessible to students."

With Beppu's influence, there's no doubting that ballet will find its way into the hearts of the next generation of gifted ballerinas, like it did hers all those years ago.

Ballet is more than just fairytale stories and pretty costumes. It's a practice where confidence, self-discipline, and integrity are highly encouraged.


Romi Beppu

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