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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, December 9, 1999

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
"I like the whole thing. I like the steps, the singing, the shoes.
I really like the movement," says Emiko Ono.

Tiny dancer

Emiko Ono has big dreams but
right now she's simply thrilled
with her role as Tiny Tim

By Cynthia Oi


FOR now, Emiko Jenna Ono is a dancer-singer reprising for the second year her role in Honolulu Dance Theatre's "Scrooge," but she doesn't want to limit herself.

"I want to be all sorts of things -- an artist, a gymnast, a ballerina," she says, her clear voice lilting through the list.

When you're 9 years old like Ono, life is full of possibilities.

Since her debut as one of the Christmas puddings in the same production four years ago, Emiko has graduated to the role of Tiny Tim and built a list of credits that includes Diamond Head Theatre's "Oliver" and "The King & I." She was also the letter "E" in the "Read to Me" commercials on television.


Bullet What: "Scrooge," a ballet presented by the Honolulu Dance Theatre
Bullet When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Bullet Where: Hawaii Theatre
Bullet Cost: $24-$15; $5 discount for students, children, seniors; children under 3 free
Bullet Call: 528-0506

The Maryknoll School 4th grader "pretty much gets straight As," according to her mother, Michelle, despite a busy dance class schedule -- ballet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, jazz on Fridays, point on Wednesday -- and rehearsals on Saturdays. She is learning piano and works on her voice training with her mother, but gave up gymnastics this year to focus on her performing arts. She also likes to draw "friends, trees and natural habitats."

Emiko is poised and confident, sitting up straight through the first few minutes of an interview at the family home in Manoa, then draping herself across a love seat, propping her chin on her fist.

Her brother Philip, who gives his age at "13 and a half," teases her playfully and makes faces while she talks, but she is unfazed.

Emiko loves to perform.

"I'm good at it. I know I have a certain talent," she says analytically, not at all boastful.

"I like the whole thing. I like the steps, the singing, the shoes. I really like the movement. And I like it when they put the whole thing together and it comes out really nice," she says.

Emiko balks a bit when her mother asks her to sing, then grabs the music sheets for "Good King Wenceslaus." As soon as she begins, her little-girl face takes on a serenity. Her voice is clear, her enunciation crisp, her tones rich, her delivery heartfelt. When she is done, she drops her eyes for a second, and the impish quality returns.

She is "passionate" about performing, her mother says. "The minute she gets on stage, there's a transformation."

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
The Ono family surround Emiko, center front, at their
Manoa home. From left they are dad Michael, brother
Philip, mom Michelle, and brother Alec.

"When I did 'Oliver,' I knew everyone's lines without looking at the script," Emiko says. With "Scrooge," "I memorized all the dances. Sometimes when they're doing the ghosts dance, I put on my shoes and dance with them."

As Tiny Tim, Emiko must dance with a crutch.

"When I first started, it was very difficult. Then I got used to it and now it's very easy," she says.

She likes the production's director, Matthew Wright, whom she refers to as "Mr. Matthew."

"Mr. Matthew is a real cool director. He teaches us how to do the dances. Sometimes he yells at us, but that's only when we mess up. He comes from England, you know."

"And I'm not the only one in 'Scrooge.' Alec, he's 15 years old, he's the chimney sweep, and my dad, he's a chicken man, sells chickens and he buries people in the future and he's a nephew."

Michelle Ono translates the outburst: her husband, Michael, vice principal at Jarrett Middle School; and their other son, Alec, also have roles in the production. Michael was a ballroom dance competitor "in his younger days," she says.

"He's old now," Philip says. "He's 48." Brother and sister laugh at the thought of their father as a young man dancing.

"Yeah, 48," Emiko giggles. "He's seven years older than my mommy," she adds with some incredulity.

She doesn't suffer stage fright often, she says.

"I get more scared in the studio when I'm doing rehearsals than when I'm on stage. If I'm in front of people I know, it gets me scared. But people I don't know who are far away, even if I know them and they're far away out in the audience, I'm not that scared," she says.

With all her confidence, she's still a little girl with likes and dislikes.

Her favorite colors: blue and purple, "but they're almost the same."

Her favorite singer: Jennifer Lopez, "because I like her songs."

Her favorite hobbies: "Everything I can fit in."

Her best friend: "Kimberly Pafundei. She's nice and loyal."

When asked to describe herself, she spells out "B-R-A-T," but brother Alec disagrees.

"She's a nice, loving, caring friend to everybody. Even though she likes to get her way, she's always there," he says.

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