Perfecting their craft: West Hawaii Dance Theatre dancers star in ballet ‘Cinderella’

  • West Hawaii Dance Theatre will be performing Cinderella at the Kahilu Theatre on Saturday. (West Hawaii Dance Theatre/Courtesy Photo)
  • West Hawaii Dance Theatre will be performing Cinderella at the Kahilu Theatre on Saturday. (West Hawaii Dance Theatre/Courtesy Photo)
  • West Hawaii Dance Theatre will be performing Cinderella at the Kahilu Theatre on Saturday. (West Hawaii Dance Theatre/Courtesy Photo)
  • West Hawaii Dance Theatre will be performing Cinderella at the Kahilu Theatre on Saturday. (West Hawaii Dance Theatre/Courtesy Photo)

KAILUA-KONA — Countless hours of behind-the-scenes prep work, dancing and rehearsals are at the heart of West Hawaii Dance Theatre’s latest production.

On Saturday, the dance company will be performing their take of the “Cinderella” ballet at 5 p.m. at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea. The ballet is a one-time performance that has been in the works since September, and features the students and instructors at WHDT.

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The star is one of the company’s longtime dancers, Soleil Fitz-Gerald. Fitz-Gerald has been with the company since she was 9 and now not only gets to dance the lead role of Cinderella, but also had a hand in putting the show together.

“I pulled Soleil in because she’s been with us for so long, and she wants to go into production and theatre for college,” Virginia Holte, artistic director of WHDT, said. “I asked her to help us put everything together, including creating costumes, creating music and coordinating with all the instructors besides just dancing in it.”

Fitz-Gerald said the behind-the-scenes work has made “Cinderella” a special experience for her.

“It is incredibly eye opening. I normally just dance, and I never really put that much thought into what goes on to create an actual show,” Fitz-Gerald said. “Being able to be a part of that just creates another level of love to the show.

“It has a very unique feeling because we’ve all put our hearts and souls into it.”

Dancing alongside Fitz-Gerald is professional dancer Kula Batangan, who has flown back and forth this spring from Maui to dance the part of the Prince.

“It was a really exciting offer. For one, I have a history with Virginia, and I performed in December in the Nutcracker, so I have worked with all the girls,” Batangan said. “And knowing that Soleil was stepping into this role and adding her own choreography, and there would be different types of styles involved too, I thought it was a different and exciting process because of that. I’m just really excited to be a part of it. It’s been a real joy to work with all of them.”

The other players who have helped put the upcoming production together include assistant director Midori Satoh, instructor Anne Marie Pargett, technician Gary Morphis and pianist Megami Kopp, who will be playing the piano live during the performance.

Dancing in a variety of supporting roles alongside Fitz-Gerald and Batangan are Rayna Morphis, Maddie Bleich and Luna Branum, as well as all the students that are a part of WHDT.

Despite the long process, and a missing Prince for half of their rehearsals, Holte said the production has been “fairly easy.”

“(Cinderella) just seemed like it had a really good theme for us,” Holte said. “The themes of kindness and working together, just like how we’re working as a team to put this together.”

Batangan said that the combined effort was a selling point for him to be a part of the production.

“Sometimes you walk into a process and everything is already set or there’s a history of choreography that’s already been established and you come in and get your role and that’s it,” Batangan said. “With this one there was a back and forth … everybody got to have a bunch of input. The process is really important to me, and this was a really exciting way to delve into their imaginations.”

While ballet is the star of the show, other disciplines included will be tap, lyrical and contemporary dance. The dancers will also be presenting a shortened version of the ballet for the residents of the Regency at Hualalai on June 4.

Fitz-Gerald said she hopes the dancers and crews’ hard work pays off, and that the audience will be able to fully immerse themselves in the show.

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“I had an art teacher tell me once when I was younger, that in order to make someone feel something, you have to feel it yourself, especially in visual and performing arts,” Fitz-Gerald said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve kind of started to understand what that means more. It’s a really, really magical feeling being able to feel something and then see someone else feel the same thing, and being able share a story, or a feeling, or a moment with someone.”

To purchase tickets, visit kahilutheatre.org. Ticket prices range from $23-$38. For more information, visit whdt.org or call 329-8876.