CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sisters Delia, left, and Caleigh Fabro are the Dueling Dancers of Celtic Keiki.
Fast & fancy feet
Twins Caleigh and Delia Fabro, 12, show off their footwork for St. Patrick's
There are times when sibling rivalry is a good thing. One example, artistically anyway, is when Caleigh and Delia Fabro perform as the Dueling Dancers of Celtic Keiki. Rapid-fire footwork -- the faster the better -- is an important part of Celtic dance, and no show is complete without a number in which the 12-year-old twins compete to dance the fastest and with the most precision.
Dueling Dancers of Celtic Keiki
Saturday: Emerald Ball, 8 p.m., Planet Hollywood; $50
Sunday: 3 to 8 p.m., Kelley McNeill's in Waikiki
Wednesday: 6:30 p.m., Kapolei Public Library; free
March 17: St. Patrick's Day appearances at the Friends of St. Patrick parade, noon in Waikiki; Hilton Hawaiian Village, 3:30 p.m.; Aloha Tower, 6:15 p.m.
"They've always wanted to see who had the fastest feet, which is why (Michael) Flatley is a big influence, because he is the 'Feet of Flames' (in Irish dance)," says Lorraine Suankum, the girls' mother.
"When we first started dancing, we always wanted to know who did faster steps, reels (and) jigs, who did (them) more gracefully and which of us kicked higher," Caleigh adds.
Now that her girls are older, Suankum says, they're developing distinct styles.
"Caleigh has incorporated more leaps -- which is kind of dangerous if you can imagine jumping on a wooden floor in tap shoes -- and spins. Delia has managed to master the fast feet so she, like Flatley, can do that noise thing really good. She can 'play the drums' with her feet, while Caleigh has been blessed with these gazelle legs for jumping. They're really defining each character, and people love them."
The onstage rivalry is show-biz stuff. Offstage, the two work together, continuously refining and building the act. Delia designs the costumes and arranges the music. Caleigh does the choreography and has created enough pieces for a two-hour show.
"We used to just do normal steps -- we had no kicks, we had no liveliness, we just had a blank face. Now we get the crowd going," Caleigh says. "We dance like there's no tomorrow."
Suankum traces the roots of Celtic dance to ancient times, when Irish clans used dance to resolve conflicts without bloodshed.
"All the clans were related, and they didn't want to war against each other and make their own forces weaker to the English, the Saxons, the Viking invasions ... so each clan or chieftain would bring his best dancer to the crossroads to settle disputes over land or a cow --"
" -- or a marriage partner," Caleigh adds.
A dance-off rather than a duel would resolve the dispute.
Suankum says the tradition is "kind of like the hula" in terms of prestige, but was also enjoyed for social purposes. The crossroads became a place where people would socialize and meet prospective marriage partners. A competitive element remained, however, and women were appraised in part for their speed and precision as dancers.
With St. Patrick's Day marking the apogee of American interest in Celtic culture, March is a busy month for the duo. Their schedule includes Sunday evening performances at Kelley McNeill's in Waikiki, a special show at Kapolei Public Library on Tuesday and a full day of dancing and parading when Honolulu celebrates St. Patrick's Day.
But Irish dance isn't a seasonal thing for Caleigh and Delia. They dance year-round in Honolulu's Irish-themed bars and join other Celtic dancers in contra dancing, a group affair that their mother describes as "a square dance on acid."
They're also planning to open their own dance school, with musicians and others joining them on staff. The school will also offer instruction in Irish culture, language and traditional instruments such as the bodhran, penny whistle and fiddle. Looking further into the future, they hope to someday sponsor an international Celtic dance competition that will bring top dancers from Europe, North America, Australia and elsewhere to Hawaii.
But getting back to the question of which of her girls is faster, Suankum says the competition continues. "These girls have been dancing since they were 5 and they still haven't decided who is the fastest dancer, so the 'dueling dancers' get better every year."