Good news, MAPA fans: "Pieces" is back! But it's not "Pieces" anymore; it's "Moves," and it's a little bit different, but just as good.
Maui Academy of Performing Arts jam-packed its Spring Extravaganza with talent at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater last weekend. Saturday afternoon featured the Jazz, Tap & Hip-Hop Revue with MAPA dancers of all ages and levels; and Sunday was the ballet, "A Midsummer Night's Dream." On both evenings, 65 of MAPA's most elite dancers returned to the stage for "Moves."
For audiences used to the all-out "Pieces" showcases, "Moves" was a bit more sedate. After all, different economic times call for different measures. Gone were the big showy theatrics of numbers like 2006's "Dick Tracy" and 2007's "Shoeless Joe." "Moves" was a more toned-down affair, with less focus on the back story and more focus on the dance itself.
Fortunately, MAPA's competent crop of dancers was able to generate plenty of excitement without all the fuss.
In particular, the three Ichinose siblings dominated the stage with their electric energy and skill. "Human" was a vibrant example, featuring twins Moani and Leilani Ichinose and their brother, Hiroki, along with Katerina Dominguez, Leesa Foree and Kelsey Reyes. The young dancers were also the choreographers. "Are we human, or are we dancers?" asked the song lyrics by The Killers. It was a tough call, as they kicked, spun and leaped in a whirl of black and purple.
"Toxic," choreographed by Reyes, was another Ichinose stunner. Hiroki demonstrated his skyscraping jumps, while his sisters and Dominguez, Foree, Katie Iannitello, Katrina Schenk and Katie Talbot danced in vivid Asian-inspired costumes, fans snapping.
Like "Pieces," "Moves" was made up of many different moods and genres, from sassy tap in "Route 66" (choreographed by Ashiya Carter; danced by Kaitlin Istvan, Madison McGain, Emily Murai and Ara Vito); to fun, funky hip-hop in "Vanilla Drop" (choreographed by Rebecca Owen; danced by Dominguez, Istvan, Talbot, Hiroki Ichinose, Samantha Kaufman, Jennifer Lawrence, Ariel Martin, Rachel McMillan, Kahanu Mina, Tiare Pimentel and Christine Shimomura). Ballet Mistress Kathleen McKeon brought in a touch of classical ballet with the lovely "Dance For Nine" (Dominguez, Foree, Vito, Melissa Echiverri, Jade Direnfeld, Haley Deforest, Leilani Ichinose, Isabelle Moes, Jessica Patterson and Taylor Soma) set to Mendelssohn.
Some of the prettiest pieces were choreographer Katira Arak's haunting "Hide and Seek," with the dancers (Arak, Pimentel, Iannitello, Istvan, Echiverri, Lee Ann Lawrence and Celina Hayashi) dressed in filmy earth-colored costumes; Camille Romero's "If I Ain't Got You," featuring dancers Istvan, McGain, Patterson, Soma, Arianna Glauser and Isabelle Jones in streaming white skirts with their hair loose; and McKeon's exuberant "To Love You More," danced by Dominguez, Echiverri, Foree, Patterson, Soma, Vito, Moes, Deforest, Direnfeld and Leilani Ichinose, never missing a beat despite some sound issues.
One of the best surprises of the evening was a guest appearance by former MAPA standouts Jesse Chin and Alannah Pascua, home from college and demonstrating their more mature and refined dancing techniques in the passionate "Anoanimal."
Another fun surprise was Dance Director Kathleen Schulz and a host of MAPA teachers, choreographers and longtime dancers (McKeon, Romero, Arak, Carter, Lee Ann Lawrence, Barry Brinker Jones, Jennifer Campbell, Danelle Watson, Jamy Woodbury, Nadine Frommer and Hallie Hunt) strutting their stuff in fine style in "All That Jazz."
A ton of work on the part of both teachers and students went into this blockbuster weekend, but that's how it goes at MAPA. "Since I can remember, MAPA has taken over my afternoons and summer, but I wouldn't have it any other way," senior Molly Khalil wrote in the program's "Senior Spotlight."
It was the last Spring Extravaganza for Khalil, along with the rest of MAPA's graduating seniors: Talbot, Hayashi, Pimentel, Lauren Olsen, Ali Powell, Jillian Shy and Moani and Leilani Ichinose - as they head off to college and careers that might or might not involve dance. But, like Chin and Pascua, maybe they'll be back.
As Talbot wrote in her "Senior Spotlight": "Through all the ups and downs in my life, dancing has always been a constant."
Call it "Pieces"; call it "Moves" - the joyful essence of dance will never change.
* Freelance writer Sky Barnhart contributes the Backstage column every Thursday in Maui Scene. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.