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Guest Choreographer Ryan Yamauchi '11 Returns Home to Mid-Pacific

By Julie Funasaki Yuen

Mid-Pacific School of the Arts Dance students began the school year working hard under the direction of guest choreographer alum Ryan Yamauchi ’11. In the lovely Kawaiaha‘o dance studios, the student dancers and Yamauchi created an 11-minute piece that reflected the contemporary and complex nature of the musical accompaniment.

“It’s really an amazing group of students, and it’s a very collaborative process,” says Yamauchi. “The way I’ve been working with them is really how many professionals work in New York. I was really interested in having the students bring their own knowledge and experiences into the piece. Although I created much of the work, some of the choreography is from their bodies and brains. We brought this to life together.”

Yamauchi began his dance training at the Mid-Pacific Institute School of the Arts and later moved to New York and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance from the Conservatory of Dance SUNY Purchase. Yamauchi has performed with 2nd Best Dance Company, Loni Landon Dance Projects, and Sidra Bell Dance New York. As a choreographer, Yamauchi has been commissioned to create work for students at SUNY Purchase and The Juilliard School. He currently dances and teaches for Doug Varone and Dancers.

While a student at Mid-Pacific, Yamauchi remembers working with guest choreographers. “As a student here, I got to perform in guest artist pieces so it feels very full circle. It was a transformative experience; being in the process; meeting someone from Hawai‘i, who was dancing in New York at the time, and to envision myself in that place and get that experience was really amazing. I’m so honored and excited to be back here and sharing what I’ve learned.”

What made this process different from works Yamauchi created pre-pandemic was the inclusion of social distancing. “Maintaining appropriate social distancing was paramount to the experience,” says Mid-Pacific Dance Head Paul Maley. “The dancers never intentionally touch but you hardly notice because it feels like the dancers are partnering throughout the performance of the work.”

Mid-Pacific Dance student Kyson Kai’22 shares, “It’s definitely nice to return because after almost two years of losing that sense of normalcy, we almost forgot what it’s like to dance in the studio, to work with a guest artist and dance together. It’s nice to rebuild, rehearse and finally get back to where we once were.”

Yamauchi was truly impressed with the Mid-Pacific School of the Arts Dance students and with the caliber of their performances. “We are working at a really high level, both with the speed and with the content of the performance,” says Yamauchi. “In the past several years, I’ve been able to travel and teach at dozens of universities on the East Coast and abroad, and I’ll say that the level here at Mid-Pacific is really on par with any performing arts high school and a lot of colleges.”