Monday, December 13, 2010

DIVINO RITMO 2nd Annual Grand Ball and Showcase

By: David Easa

The Divino Ritmo 2nd Annual Grand Ball and Showcase held on Friday, December 10th, 2010,  was more like a Broadway musical than a typical Showcase.  It was so filled and so complete and so complex that it bewildered the imagination how much time and effort went into the formulation of such a perfectly timed and coordinated spectacle.  The event was held at the Sheraton Waikiki Hawaii Ballroom where the long rear side of the ballroom was dressed with a  West Side Story backdrop of the New York skyline, the "brainchild" of Paul Laderta who designed the set, painstakingly built 80% of it by hand, and designed & commissioned the rest for production.   Part of the skyIine was filled with modern looking apartment and commercial buildings and other parts looked older and worn just like in the big apple.  I particularly liked the large cardboard model of the New York cabby with a hula girl statue adorning the dashboard.  The model of the cab was large enough and tempting enough to cut a hole through the back window, stick your head through from the other side and take a bunch of pictures just like you would in Las Vegas.  This urge came almost naturally and became increasingly tempting especially after I filled my own tank with fuel after my dance contribution to the evening’s event.    Thankfully I resisted the temptation.

There was abundant social dancing that filled the early part of the evening as well as to fill in between the two showcase student dance sessions and the professional show.  The dance floor was large enough to swallow the dancers without choking; as a result, I had little difficulty navigating while dancing along the line of dance and did not worry for a moment about colliding with others. 

Dinner was a lovely three course meal that was excellent in quality, interrupted by a tasteful but not too lengthy slide show highlighting the history of the Divino Ritmo dance studio since coming to Hawaii.   This was followed by the evening’s entertainment highlighting two sections of student dancing, mostly as pro am events, but also some amateur couples and a few dance formations, as well as one guest dance formation from the Pan Pacific Formation Team. 

The MC was a gifted orator, Paul Jack, flown in from Arizona to offer his contribution, and the West Side story narration was performed by Bailey who is young starting actor – acting the part of a janitor providing the background comments that introduced all of the dance performances that followed.  I must admit that the narration presentation was a little understated and not theatrical enough, detracting slightly from the excitement of the evening as well as the creative commentary that was creatively written by Lucas expressly for this event.  Lights dimmed while dancers took to the floor, followed by spotlights beaming magically on the dancers, slides shown in the background, and the emergence of the music and dance.  This was a carefully constructed evening with every ballroom dance represented from international and American foxtrot to bolero, salsa, cha cha, rumba, slow and Viennese waltz, tango, Paso Doble, etc,..

Without attempting to critique each of the dance performances, a few points are worth mentioning.  I must qualify these as my biased observations; realizing that others attending may have different views.  In any event, knowing most of the students and having seen them perform in the past, they were all prepared and performed to their ability – and did so without any major mistakes.   We are not all equal as dancers, but it was clear that everyone had practiced and came ready to perform.  One has to congratulate both Lucas and Yanna for the astonishing assortment of choreography that was displayed; I am continually in awe of the talent that it takes in this creative venture to capture the essence of the music with well chosen dance routines that are fitted to the level and personal attributes of the student dancers!  Finally, if I have to choose one dance routine to highlight it would be Cole Horibe dancing with Yanna in the Paso Doble.  But it was an evening of more than just Cole, and all of us worked very hard to show off our dance skills and contribute to the evening’s splendor.   And finally, it is important to admit that it was entertaining and just plain fun to watch the assortment of student dancers perform, and they all seemed to share in the excitement and pleasure.

As if this wasn’t enough, the evening was punctuated by a spectacular professional show that was performed by visiting professional world champions Billy Fajardo and Katie Marlow who flew in from Florida for this event……..and some of their dances were accompanied by our own Yanna and Lucas.  A flow of youth (the DRD Junior Ensemble) dancing a mixture of dances filled in moments between the professional show dancing; the youth executed their routine with flare and precision and served as more than a believable cement between professional dances, but rather to embellish and enhance the professional show.  As usual I was mesmerized when Yanna and Lucas took to the dance floor, a feeling that has not attenuated over time and after many opportunities to witness Yanna’s dance poise and perfection. 

I am now recovering from such an amazing evening.   However, in retrospect, I must admit that I was not all that convinced that the evening would materialize as it did.  We had our final rehearsal only a few hours before Showtime; at that time, everything seemed to be going in the wrong direction.   We were not even allowed into the ballroom on time, and the Sheraton staff seem unprepared for all that was needed to do.   They were scurrying around trying their best but their actions looked more comical than efficient or knowledgeable. I left the afternoon weary with the fear of the evening to come.

When I returned back to the Sheraton, everything seemed to come together magically as if Yanna and Lucas had willed it to be so!  All of my fears were dissolved as I focused on having to perform my dance routines and attending to my guests.  If there were any problems with the coordination of the evening, I could not detect any…the evening seemed to flow naturally and without notice.  Reflecting on this now, a few days later, I am proud on being a part of this event, and amazed at the complexity and number of moving parts in its production.  I don’t think anyone was not involved would understand the extent of the work involved, the skills that it takes to make it happen, how difficult it is particularly to accomplish in Hawaii where every item is charged ala carte, and how risky it is for a fledgling dance studio to commit to such as extraordinary undertaking.  

That being said, I feel that those who did not attend this years’s Divino Ritmo Grand Ball & Showcase have missed a wonderful event.  They will have to wait until December 3, 2011 for the next opportunity to attend.  Maybe this commentary will help inspire such attendance.  

Finally, I want to wish all who read this commentary a wonderful and safe Christmas holiday, and look forward to continue to writing my next commentary sometime early next year…..

David Easa

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