Alvin Ailey Dance Camp Inspires Students Across the State


From March 19 to the 31, 2017, approximately 50 middle school students across the state of Hawaii spent two weeks at Camp Kokokahi, in Kaneohe, Oahu with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Instructors, learning about dance and self-efficacy skills. The entire camp and event was sponsored by the Lili’uokalani Trust.

Two NHIS seventh graders, who are also apart of the Nanakuli High and Intermediate School Performing Arts Center (NPAC), Jolynn Peoples and Desiree Kanui were two out of the fifty-one students that were able to commit.

In order to be selected students had to submit an application as well as an introduction video or written essay.

Lili’uokalani Trust Project Coordinator, Kau`i Arce, said, “Students were required to submit an application with references. We also asked each student to submit a personal introduction through video or written summary. This process allowed the kamali’i to be creative, as they could’ve submitted a video of them singing, dancing, doing an oli, or writing a journal in another language.”

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is a modern dance company that is based in New York City and was founded in 1958, by choreographer and dancer Alvin Ailey. The company is known for producing world renowned choreography and dancers.

“The task force decided which students would be best suited for the program. We initially selected about 65 students and ended up with 51 being able to fully commit to the program,” said Arce.

Peoples said, “This experience taught me how to adapt to new things and how to be away from my family.”

Students not only learned different styles of dance, but they also learned about the challenges that came along with it.

“Modern dance was a challenge for me because we did a lot of rolling, more than the younger class. And by the end of modern I had a really big bruise on my knee and it was the knee I have the arthritis in so it hurt a lot,” said An’Gellique Kaeo, NPAC member.

Along with the experience of new dance styles, students learned things about themselves that they never knew before.

NPAC member, Kea`ala`iliahi Ford, said, “What I wanted to take out of it is that I can do more than I thought I could…if I just put my mind to it, if I just try, it’s easier to step out of my comfort zone once I was pushed out of my box.”

Parents were also invited to come and observe the camp, and also some of them volunteered to help out.

“Merrie Aipoalani, went everyday to wash and dry their dance clothes during the first week; another ‘anake from the windward side did the second week,” said, parent, Georgette Stevens.

Parent, AnGelle Kaeo, said, “We went to Polynesian Culture Center on Saturday where the students danced and chanted which made me so proud. People were stopping as if they were the entertainment. I got to meet so many students from across the Islands.”

At the end of the two week camp, students performed at Hawaii Theatre to showcase what they learned over the two weeks.

As for the future, the Lili’uokalani Trust hopes to make the camp an annual event.

“Since this pilot project was such a huge success, I’d love to see it as an annual camp. A program like this offers local, homegrown talent the opportunity for global exposure without the cost to travel to the continent or elsewhere. Lili’uokalani Trust is making a worthwhile investment in the future of our kamali’i by providing impactful programs like, Ka ‘Opua Ha’a I ka Malie,” said Arce.

For some students, the experience was a wake-up call to the reality of the dance world.

“It was an awakening because dancers have to get up early, practice, and stretch out. It taught me to pay attention and to not get too arrogant because you aren’t the best out of them all. It also taught me to not take things for granted,” said An’Gellique Kaeo.