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The Academy student who played Queen Narcissa in Punahou Dance School's 
recent Triennial production of "Snow White and Rose Red," reflects on what it means to be part of Punahou's dance 'ohana.

By Kelly Kwan '14

I remember sitting up in the balcony of Dillingham Hall during a dress rehearsal of my first Triennial. Punahou Dance School was presenting "The Ice King" and I had just finished performing my two-minute tap routine as a cherry tree. I recall watching all the "big girls" and being mesmerized by the story they expressed through dance. They were graceful, charismatic, strong and confident. Their bodies and facial expressions told a story, and I was drawn into the fantasy world they created.

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"Would I ever be able to do that? Me? No way!" I was a cautious 8-year-old girl who was content with blending into the background. I never wanted to stand out in a crowd and had yet to find my voice.

Instead of hanging up my tap shoes when that Triennial ended in 2004, Ms. Claudia Parisien-Heu invited me to join the school's Tap Company, a program that emphasized choreography and performance skills. "Huh? Me?" I was sure she had mistaken me for someone else. Scared and tentative, I agreed to do it.

Like all Punahou programs, the dance curriculum is thoughtfully designed. Participation in the Tap Company requires all tappers to learn the fundamentals of dance through ballet and other techniques through other dance forms. The overall program is structured into three-year cycles, allowing dancers two years to concentrate on technique before concentrating on performance aspects during the third year.

Suddenly, I found myself enrolled in all genres of dance the school offered and the Dance Pavilion felt like home to me. I started to feel more self-assured and I eventually found my voice -- through dance. I still have a long way to go, but dance will always be a part of me.

Over the years, the dance faculty and dancers have become my extended family. I am so proud to be part of this 'ohana and will be forever grateful for all the opportunities the Punahou Dance School has provided me.

From April 24 - 28, 2013, Punahou Dance School presented "Snow White and Rose Red," which included performances by nearly 500 dancers from grades 1 - 12. It was my fourth and last Triennial before graduating next year, and I finally got to be one of the "big girls."

Photos by Kathleen Connelly

See the slideshow



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