Punahou has one of Hawai‘i’s largest dance academies for grades K – 12. It offers not only a wide variety of dance styles, but also a range from introductory to the most challenging of levels. All classes are open to the public, as well as to Punahou students.
The program is serious and comprehensive, teaching students to love dance and providing sufficient foundation for further artistic pursuits. The discipline, perseverance and intelligence required to succeed in the performing arts serves the students well in other aspects of their lives, both in and out of the classroom. The Dance School cultivates and promotes these character traits, and fosters an abiding appreciation for dance and the performing arts.
Ballet at Punahou Dance School has the largest enrollment of our five dance forms, offering 15 levels and 16 classes per week. We encourage (but do not require) our students to study ballet, as classical technique is the foundation of nearly all stage dance.
Students are placed according to their age, ability and experience. It is not unusual for dancers to remain in the same level for 2-3 years before progressing. Beginning classes start with basic vocabulary, positions and sequences. Intermediate classes emphasize body placement, conditioning and more complex combinations. Our intermediate-advanced, advanced and pointe dancers train more intensively – they are in class multiple times per week, study with master teachers, and are given the opportunity to perform throughout the year.
Because ballet training is precise and rigorous, dancers learn discipline and determination in their approach to this art. We strive for our students to be intelligent dancers, understanding principles of technique and how to learn on their feet. Our students have gone on to become professional dancers and dance educators, as well as lifelong dancers and supporters of the arts. In the fall, ballet dancers across the island are invited to audition for Hawaii Ballet Theatre’s annual production of The Nutcracker, which has held rehearsals at Punahou for over 20 years.
Jazz dance at Punahou ranges from the stylized choreography of Broadway musicals to lyrical contemporary forms and street dance. As with any technique-based dance form, students are encouraged to study ballet as a foundation. Middle school and high school jazz dancers at Punahou can audition for the Dance Team, which rehearses on Saturdays and performs at athletic events and local competitions.
Tap dance is an original American art form, requiring the percussive musical ability of a drummer and the strength and control of a ballet or jazz dancer. Intricate choreography and challenging rhythms are part of the signature style at Punahou, incorporating both classic Broadway and rhythmic (“hoofer”) tap. In addition to weekday classes, our four Tap Companies dance on Saturday mornings – they are elite tappers who are given performance opportunities throughout the year, and must audition to join.
Street Dance (also known as “Hip-Hop”) is a term applied to dances including breakdancing, popping, locking, and other current styles. In its original form, hip-hop was a showcase for creative expression on the street and in clubs, more recently evolving into crews and classes performing onstage and in studios. At Punahou it is taught as a formalized ensemble dance, with detailed choreography, patterns and steps.
The musical theatre curriculum at the Dance School is designed to provide a foundation for students in dance, acting, and vocal performance. Learning both traditional and current Broadway songs, elementary-aged students will receive a broad, exciting introduction to the genre. Older students and those with prior experience will enhance their training by learning jazz-based dance technique and a variety of choreographic styles and Broadway genres.
The Dance School is part of Punahou’s Co-Curricular Programs, offering over 50 classes a week after school. Our curriculum is based on a three-year cycle: During the first year, classes focus on dance technique, self-assessment, and informal studio performances. The second year includes learning choreography designed to showcase each class level, culminating in an informal "pau hana" (end of work) recital on stage with simple costumes. In the third year, students participate in a Triennial (occurring once every three years) production, with an original story and elaborate costumes, sets and lighting.
Over a five-week period during the summer, the Dance School offers many of the same classes as the regular school year, but the shorter session allows for students to explore new dance forms or study more intensively. Classes are held earlier in the afternoon, to align with the shorter summer school day, and guest teachers join our regular faculty. In the mornings, a survey course is offered for students in grades 2-6 called "Dance Awareness", which introduces them to ballet, jazz, musical theater, tap and Polynesian dance, and culminates in a lively, costumed performance at the Dance Pavilion.
All classes are held in the Josephine Flanders Dance Pavilion located on upper campus. Named after the Dance School's founder, this state-of-the-art facility was completed in 2008 and is one of the finest of its kind. There are three separate studios, two of which can be combined into one larger space. Each air-conditioned studio is equipped with the latest sound equipment and dance flooring.
The Dance School faculty is our greatest asset. Our teachers have excellent training and have many years of experience in teaching, choreographing and performing on local and national stages. They are passionate and enthusiastic about dance, and giving back to the next generation. They work with each other to improve their teaching skills, to promote excellence in the classroom and to foster a warm and caring atmosphere throughout the Dance School.
Kristin Aune, Aya Duong, Charlys Ing, Brigitte Nakagawa
Ahnya Chang, Micaiah Ganz, Maile Racuya Lum, Christine Yasunaga
Ahnya Chang, Micaiah Ganz, Claudia Heu, Lisa Kimsey, Caryn Yee
Jacie Ann Oda, Nikky Kitaguchi
Kristin Aune, Ahnya Chang