The Hypersquad Dance Company takes the stage in a rehearsal at the Leeward Community College Theater for an upcoming show.

Dance show
a farewell, too


By the Hypersquad Dance Company

Where: Leeward Community College Theatre

When: 6:30 p.m. today, tomorrow, Aug. 6 and Aug. 7. Also 2:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Tickets: $12 presale, $15 at the door

Call: 676-4973

For the members of the Hypersquad Dance Company, movement to music is more than just shaking one's booty.

For one thing, there's more discipline involved. Jared Ake is one of almost a dozen young choreographers who are working with Jason Ulep's dance company as it prepares for the opening of "Identity," a three act, three-hour dance concert, at Leeward Community College tonight.

The choreographers -- most of whom are also dancing in the show -- have been running six-hour rehearsals all week, working with enthusiastic dancers ranging in age from pre-schoolers to young adults.

"Dance helps them learn about growing up in life (and) handling other responsibilities at home and school," Ake said during rehearsals Monday.

"I remind them that dance is a privilege for them at this point and that they have to take care of their other responsibilities before they can even come to dance," he said. "They learn to prioritize, get their homework done, and do what needs to be done at home."

Ake's résumé seems typical for a Hawaii-born dancer. He grew up dancing and eventually transformed from student to teacher. After teaching "at every dance studio" here, he moved to the mainland in search of opportunities and further training. "Personal family things" brought him back home, and now he's sharing his knowledge with a new generation of dancers.

"Kids here have such a passion for dance. It's something you can't really explain, but there's a natural vibe or a natural rhythm that these kids in the islands already have a feel for. There's a different type of energy here in Hawaii versus the kids in the mainland ... especially in hip-hop, which is the most popular here right now. It's so easy for them to grasp because they already have that natural instinct and ability of (following) rhythm and patterns.

"A lot of kids in Hawaii don't know what modern dance is. To them, modern dance is hip-hop ... Once they start learning more about dance, they get introduced to other forms of dance like ballet and modern ... They start to appreciate jazz, they start to appreciate ballet, and start to inquire as to how they can improve themselves as dancers."

ONE WHO already knows the difference is Josh Ulep, Jason's younger brother, who recently returned to Hawaii after a year at Talent Unlimited, a performing arts high school in New York City. He describes it as "an experience of a lifetime."

"I had a scholarship for Steps On Broadway, and I learned a lot by going up there -- not just dancing, but how to carry myself as a mature adult," he said. Among the highlights of his year away was appearing as the lead dancer in the hip hop star Jay-Z's video for the song "Encore."

His horizons as a dancer have expanded, Ulep says. He's "only doing about five numbers" in the show and is moved away from hip-hop to choreograph a modern dance number instead.

"Modern is not really big in Hawaii, but I choreographed a piece I learned up in New York, and a lyrical (number), so I'm choreographing and I'm also dancing."

While "Identity" is a homecoming for Josh Ulep, it's a farewell performance for three others. Recording artist Jennifer Perri will be leaving for New York next month to expand her singing and recording career, and prepare for a possible role on Broadway. Her sister, Jasmine, also is making the move and plans to study dance and modeling.

Chrissy Naruo, last seen in 2003's "On Dragonfly Wings," graduated from Roosevelt High School last spring and will be majoring in music on scholarship at Azusa Pacific University in the fall.

"When I do theater, I don't do dance. It conflicts too much, and gets too crazy and busy, so I decided to just do dance this year," Naruo said, explaining her year-long absence from local theater.

She joined Hypersquad in February and found it "really family oriented." She also happy she's been able to develop as a hip-hop dancer after studying jazz elsewhere.

She and Perri figure prominently in the opening number for "Identity," along with Josh Ulep and dancer/choreographer Ricky Lam.

"I choreographed four and I'm dancing in 13 (out of 30 numbers)," said Lam, who was a back-up dancer for Perri last summer. The recent high school graduate is looking for a full-time dancing gig after the show closes next Sunday.

Perri, who will be singing as well as dancing in nine numbers, says she's been so busy with Hypersquad that she put her recording career on hold for the time being.

"Preparing for the concert is hard work, but it's like a family reunion every night and I love it," she said, adding that she expects to be emotional when "Identify" ends.

"I'm really sad that I'm leaving. Every time I eat Hawaiian food, I know I'm gonna miss it ... but I've worked too hard to let this slip away."

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