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MID-PACIFIC SCHOOL OF THE ARTS DANCE students carried on the tradition of starting the 2022-23 academic year with a guest choreographer. This year, Kent Shinomae ’09 returned to choreograph an 11-minute piece that explores the discovery of the senses—as both dancers and humans.

“When Mr. Maley called to see if I was interested in coming back as the guest choreographer, I was ecstatic and ready for the opportunity. One of the reasons I was so excited—I remembered how working with guest choreographers was some of the best memories from my junior and senior years. I was able to expand my movement vocabulary. One of those guest choreographers, Amy Lynn Schiffner, was part of the faculty at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and I was in her performances at UH almost every year. She became a mentor to me. Now, I have the opportunity to teach students and have that same impact. It’s a beautiful process.”

Shinomae began his dance experience at Mid-Pacific when he entered 7th grade. Inspired by Michael Jackson and groups like the Backstreet Boys, Kent participated in 4th and 6th-grade Musical Theatre Experience at Diamond Head Theatre. He and his parents made the decision to find a school that offered a dance program for middle school students, leading him to Mid-Pacific. As part of the Performing and Visual Arts class rotation, he enjoyed dance and musical theater and took classes in each in 8th grade. He fully joined the dance program his freshman year and added ballet and modern dance to his jazz and contemporary background. Throughout high school, dance remained his focus.

After graduation in 2009, Shinomae attended the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, earning double majors—a BFA in dance and a BBA in accounting. Feeling the need to expand his horizons, in 2019 he pursued his master’s at the University of California in Irvine, California with a full scholarship. The pandemic shut down in-person classes in 2020, and Shinomae returned to Hawai‘i for remote classes. He was able to return to California and walk for graduation in June 2021. To satisfy his interest in fully experiencing California, he moved to Orange County in November 2021.

Getting the call to come back to Mid-Pacific as a guest choreographer was Shinomae’s first residency after grad school. “My goal for the program is twofold—to give something new to these dancers, an opportunity to study a new style, a different way of moving. I also wanted to teach another art form to the students. A section in the piece includes magic, which has been very important to me. My father was a magician, and my master’s thesis was based on dance and the art form of magic. Collaborating and fusing these two art forms with intention is meaningful to me.”

Shinomae will get the opportunity to continue to explore the fusion between dance and magic—he moves to Las Vegas in November 2022 to begin a contract with Cirque du Soleil in the Michael Jackson ONE production. “Growing up being inspired by Michael Jackson, to get the opportunity to dance for Cirque, combining magic and dance—I feel truly grateful and blessed. I get the chance to continue training and learning, and all of my experiences are opportunities to share back with my students. I am thankful for the chance to create and collaborate with the dancers at Mid Pacific.”