JULY 8/9/10


Disco fever rising
at Tau’s Haus

Peter Rockford Espiritu spent much of the '70s and '80s in New York City, studying classical ballet in school as part of his formal dance education, but turning to the dance clubs at night to study disco.

O-Lounge hosts

Tau's Haus Disco Extravaganza

When: 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday

Where: O-Lounge, 1349 Kapiolani Blvd. (formerly China House restaurant)

Tickets: $20 in advance; $25 with valet including tip; $30 at door; and $150 for VIP package

Call: 227-7718 or e-mail tau@taudance.org

"I was there when the disco scene started. The New York clubs were a Disneyland for adults," said Espiritu, founder and director of Hawaii's Tau Dance Theater. "You never knew what was going to happen. Things changed like the weather and it was over the top, with clubs like Area, Tunnel and Palladium. You didn't venture out of the clubs until noon the next day."

Espiritu wants to inject the over-the-top aura of the disco era into a party the dance troupe is hosting Saturday as a fund-raiser for its 10th anniversary next year. "Tau's Haus Disco Extravaganza" will mix '70s and '80s music and dancing, topped with a fashion show of designs by Betsey Johnson.

"I'm about ti-leaf skirts with combat boots. Betsey is right up that alley," Espiritu said. "And Hawaii is a grass-roots, cosmopolitan/metropolitan place. Tau Dance represents both of those sides."

The company's 10th anniversary gives them the opportunity to look back at the "pieces of who and what we are," said Espiritu. While the company is best known for modern dance productions with Pacific-Asian themes, this time Espiritu's drawing inspiration from the glitzy days of disco, when he was a student at the School of American Ballet by day and a club kid by night.

Even then, he planned to return to Hawaii to start a dance troupe in a place he refers to as "a special pearl in the middle of the Pacific." But in case he ever forgets the feeling of those good ol' days in New York, he has the journals of his youth. He used his old notes, "his homework," to capture the spirit of the disco days.

Espiritu casually speaks of the days he spent rubbing elbows with other club kids who would later become stars, like Grace Jones and Madonna.

Disco and Polynesian sensibilities will merge at the O-Lounge Saturday night.

"TAU'S HAUS Disco Extravaganza" will be a five-hour event, transforming the O-Lounge into a larger-than-life wonderland, complete with gold and silver Mylar and huge disco balls. Dancers will interact with revelers and introduce a new generation to dances like the Hustle and the Bus Stop, set to the music of Rick James, the Commodores and more.

Expect a little punk and a little New Wave music, too, as dancers, "socialites," club kids, models, and a roller skater mix it up in the club.

The fashion show promises feminine yet eclectic pieces, including six designs that haven't been shown on the runway yet.

Espiritu said that while he never met Johnson, they knew some of the same people. When she opened her store at the Ala Moana Center, he sent her flowers and hoped for the opportunity to work with her in the future. The big-hearted and effervescent designer was happy to help out.

He welcomes others to get into the spirit of the disco era by dressing the part.

"When people ask where to get authentic clothing from the '70s, I tell them to head over to Goodwill or Savers. That's where the clothing is."

So wear those elevator shoes and silky shirts to the party, and don't worry about feeling lost if you weren't even born at the time.

"Disco is approachable," said Espiritu. "It's a form of social dancing, and social dances are indicative of what people were about at a certain time. Disco, with the dress and attitude, affected people.

"I'm still as crazy and committed as ever, still inspired just as much ... I'm more focused now but I haven't forgotten how to laugh."

Tau Dance Theater

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