Roland Dupree dies at age 89

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Roland Dupree, a Kailua-Kona resident who left his mark on the history of dance, choreography and stage and screen acting, has died at age 89.


Roland Dupree, a Kailua-Kona resident who left his mark on the history of dance, choreography and stage and screen acting, has died at age 89.

Dupree is remembered for his role as the live-action model for Disney’s animated Peter Pan and for innovating a style of dance known as “West Coast Jazz.” He founded the West Hollywood dance studio Dupree Dance Academy, a school where many of big-name choreographers and high profile dancers, actors, and other performers would go to train. But Dupree’s impacts were also local. He passed away of natural causes after a brief illness on Sunday, June 21, in Albuquerque, N.M.

Dupree spent his retirement years in West Hawaii doing outreach and service to seniors, staying active in many clubs, senior organizations and social circles. The Kaiminani Drive resident inspired intense loyalty and friendships wherever he lived or worked, and was a dependable friend, elegant host, and fun-loving person, said his niece, Joy Holland Cesca.

“He absolutely loved Kona, and made some lasting friendships here that he considered extended family,” said Holland Cesca. “Roland was an incredibly talented and artistic man, with such a dry sense of humor, but you really wouldn’t know that he had this impressive history in the film and dance worlds without probing. He was a modest, down to earth, classy man, and we miss him terribly already.”

Dupree is survived by his adopted sister Judy Larson, nephew Cory Lindquist, niece Joy Holland Cesca and nephew-in-law Bob Cesca. He is also remembered by many close friends in Hawaii, Los Angeles and New Mexico, Holland Cesca said.

Dupree came into his own early as a child actor, beginning his career as a tap dancer in his home town of Fall River, Mass., at the age of 10. A year later, he was earning $20 a weekend for four shows.

Developing a reputation as an innovator in style, dance education and choreography, Dupree became a mentor and choreographer for many other renowned dancers, including ice skater and dancer Peggy Fleming, dancer Juliette Prowse and ‘80s dance-craze Flashdance dance double, Marine Jahan. Dupree developed the technique-driven national dance convention Dupree Dance Expo — one milestone in a long career of choreography and direction for television, stage and screen.

Favorite choreography projects included the “Rosemary Clooney Show,” and his own Vegas stage show “The Dupree Trio.”

It was his role as Peter Pan, however, that Dupree would be compared to repeatedly over his career. Like that character, those close to Dupree say he was perpetually young at heart and never lost his wonder for life, Holland Cesca said.

Kailua-Kona resident Ethan Olins said that a 45-year spread between himself and Dupree didn’t keep a strong friendship from forging with the man.

“Even when he was dealing with health issues and was in and out of the hospital, he always had two feet under him, looking on the bright side,” Olins said.


Services will be held at the Daniels Family Funeral Home, Sara Road Chapel, 4310 Sara Road SE, Rio Rancho, N.M., July 4, at 11 a.m., celebrating his life.

Reflections on Dupree and wishes for the family can be posted on the Daniel’s Family Funeral Services website:

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