Thursday, June 26, 2003

Hawaii's Amanda Schull, above, rehearses for a performance of "Giselle Act II" with Joan Boada, a principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet. The dance will be part of "Midsummer's Night's Dance Celebration" tomorrow.

Ballet rebel

Amanda Schull was a
reluctant ballerina, until she
discovered the power of dance


Friday, June 27, 2003

>> Amanda Schull attends Indiana University, not the University of Indiana as reported in a story on Page D1 yesterday.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

'Midsummer Night's
Dance Celebration'

Featuring stars from the San Francisco, Boston and Miami City ballet companies:

Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
On stage: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Tickets: $25 to $45; $10 discount for students, seniors and military
Call: 526-4400

Tutus and pirouettes were not originally part of Amanda Schull's plans. Dancing was not something she aspired to while growing up.

She despised nearly every moment of ballet lessons, which she began at age 3. "I hated it so much ... both the attention-span thing and having to be disciplined," she laughed.

John Landovsky remembers. "She was a little rebel, a real tomboy," he said. As Schull's mentor for 12 years at Hawaii State Ballet, he nearly gave up on Schull and her unruly behavior. She even faked injuries until he caught on to her tactics. "She was always cutting corners and really knew how to finagle things around," he said.

"He told me that I was the least promising of all his students," Schull said of Landovsky. I was interested in everything, except ballet."

Things changed when Schull turned 15, and attended an international ballet competition in Mississippi, featuring some of the best dancers in the world. "I had never seen professional dancers up close and personal. I didn't know how much it could move me. After I returned, I was a different person."

Instead of going out and playing around, she was dancing until her toes bled. "It was a life-saver for her," said Landovsky. "It really opened her eyes."

"I would have been so mad at myself if I had not given ballet a chance," Schull said.

As it turns out, Schull could be a quick learner when she set her mind to it. Tomorrow night, as a dancer for the San Francisco Ballet, she joins stars from the company, plus the Boston Ballet and Miami City Ballet in Ballet Hawaii's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dance Celebration."

She's had about four days to practice for her part in "Giselle, Act II," in which she will play one of the ethereal women, known as the Wilis. She will also dance in "Stairway to Paradise" from "Who Cares?" and "Flames of Paris."

Schull talks with fellow dancer Tara Hench during the rehearsal at Ballet Hawaii.

Joan Boada, originally from Havana, Cuba, will be Schull's partner in "Flames of Paris." He's been a principal dancer with the San Francisco company since 1999 and has traveled abroad with several other companies including Le Jeune Ballet de France, Ballet National de Cuba, Ballet de Nancy, Ballet National de Marseilles Roland Petit, The Australian Ballet, Royal Ballet of Flanders.

Like Schull, Boada would have preferred to put on his sneakers and played baseball with his friends when he was a child. Instead, his mom bought a pair of pointe shoes and sent him off to the school of arts in Cuba.

He can relate to Schull's childhood loathing of ballet classes. He started at the age of 9 simply because, "My mom wanted to keep me off the streets and out of trouble. We had to pay attention and be disciplined, while others were out playing," he said.

Since then, he has gained a great appreciation for the art. "Nothing compares to being on the stage. You can't get that feeling anywhere else," he said.

At 27, he has had three knee surgeries yet is still not willing to give up dancing. "I'll never be 100 percent again," he said. "It's really frustrating that I can't do what I used to."

Normally, Schull, as a corps dancer, would not be paired with Boada, a lead dancer who is enjoying the rare partnership. "It's really fun dancing with Amanda. We have a great time in rehearsal," he said.

"We can relax a bit," he added. "It's not as formal as when we are in San Francisco. This is Amanda's home and there are different expectations."

Amanda Schull stretches before taking to the practice floor.

Although there are clear levels among the dancers -- corps, soloists and principal dancers -- Schull said she does not feel a sense of competitive pressure within the company. Colleagues did not treat her any differently after she landed the starring role in "Center Stage" in 2000. "Everyone was supportive and interested," she said.

"I've dealt with plenty of competitiveness and jealousy in the past. School was more competitive than the (San Francisco Ballet) company," she explained. "Once you are in a company, every one is working toward the same goal. We are all in the same boat."

The dancers spend about 10 hours a day together and go on two-month tours to Europe, so it is in their best interest to try to get along, she said.

"People have gotten parts that I wanted to do ... I just try to be supportive. I hope they will do the same when I have opportunities."

Although nearly three years have passed since Schull's "Center Stage" role, she still hasn't adjusted to the celebrity aspect of performing. "I panic when people recognize me in public. I'm uncomfortable with the whole thing," she said. Some people watch her every move. "I don't know what they think I'm going to do."

Once, a group of children even swarmed around her at Chuck E. Cheese.

Even though she often feels awkward, at other times the attention is also flattering. "Some people tell me the movie got them interested in dance."

But Schull isn't limiting herself to dance. She's attending the University of Indiana, majoring in music and journalism. She refers to the school as a "dance mecca" and chose it over Juilliard. "They have wonderful teachers, guest dancers and choreographers," she said.

Her one complaint: When she is there, she "has no one to crack her back or rub her feet."

"I'm happy dancing now, but it is really strenuous work," Schull said. "My body used to hurt and I would just tough it out," she said.

At home in San Francisco she can count on getting massages twice a week and a chiropractic treatment once a week. "We are pounding our bodies everyday, but the company really takes care of us."

A career in film may be in the future, but for now, dancing is enough. "I'm not bitter and jaded yet," she said. "For now, I'm happy and satisfied."

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