Dance revolution


POSTED: Friday, July 31, 2009

Even though the Phoenix Dance Chamber has been around for two decades, artistic director Diane Letoto still feels she has to educate the public of what constitutes Chinese dance.





        Featuring Phoenix Dance Chamber

» Where: Hawaii Theatre, 1041 Nuuanu Ave.


» When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow


» Cost: $26 general admission ($4 discount for seniors and students available), $10 for children


» Info: 528-0506 or www.hawaiitheatre.com




At last Saturday's rehearsal for the community dance group's anniversary show at Hawaii Theatre this weekend, Letoto feels that most people think the dances of China “;as part of Chinese opera, with its slow movements, or something that represents the first immigrants from that country to Hawaii.”;

Although the initial inspiration may have come from regional village folk dances, Chinese dance “;has developed like modern dance and ballet, and illustrates the diversity of the dance-scapes of China.”;

In celebration of 20 years of existence, Letoto has gathered 40 of her dancers, of all ages and both past and present, to present the group's repertoire, including past favorites and newly choreographed pieces.

The Phoenix Dance Chamber is a registered organization at the University of Hawaii and is part of the Hawaii Foundation for Chinese Culture and Arts, a nonprofit established for the appreciation of Chinese heritage in our communities. The PDC performs regularly throughout Oahu and offers classes in Chinese classical and ethnic folk dancing.

Letoto often spoke about perpetuating the legacy of her inspiration and mentor, the late Liu Youlan, the ethnic dance specialist for the Beijing Dance Academy, and a frequent visitor to Hawaii between 1989 and her death in 2007.

“;She was a professional dancer since the age of 11, and because she has a natural ability to sing, she had a sense of music and rhythm that made a difference in her choreography.”;

The group's two-hour program is an ambitious one, filled with colorful costuming that was made with the help of a professional designer in Beijing. Two of the choreographed pieces will be reprised for “;Legacy of the Phoenix”;: “;Dancing Among Bamboo,”; inspired by a traditional dance from Yunan province, and from Hebei province (where Beijing is located), the fluid and graceful “;Flying Kites.”;

“;Presenting Chinese dance is our way of keeping alive the 'fengge,' the essence of the culture,”; Letoto said. “;That's what I'm trying to do.”;

The Phoenix Dance Chamber offers Chinese dance classes Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at the University of Hawaii-Manoa a