By Priscilla Cabral-Pérez
Hawaii Hispanic News
HONOLULU, Hawaii -- The dancers of Samadhi Hawaii will go to great heights to amaze their audience. Their performance at the Hawaii State Museum, Aug. 5, consisted of a colorful and exhilarating celebration of the Hawaiian culture and the jovial spirit of the circus.
The dancers showcased their acrobatic skills on silk ropes and rings suspended in mid-air from the monkey pod trees on the museum's front lawn, while Hawaiian musicians - ukulele virtuosa Taimane Gardner, singer Star Kalahiki, and slack key master guitarist Jeff Peterson and his trio - complemented the whimsical mood with their live performances.
With no harnesses attached, the aerial dancers performed freefalls anywhere from 10 to 20 feet relying completely on their strength and concentration for their safety.
Yet, their movements were dexterous and graceful, and their faces, serene, showing no signs of possible danger.
Andrea Torres, Samadhi Hawaii's director, said there are moments in her performance
when she is in a "complete state of peacefulness."
Samadhi is a Sanskrit term meaning "total self-collectedness," which Torres considers appropriate to describe such a state.
"It is a really strong state of concentration, of union. It is one moment of bliss," she said.
It is also the perfect word to describe the synergy that takes place during the aerial rendition.
"The performer and the spectator are in union. The performer is not acting, but being, and those who witness it get that," she added.
The aerial acrobatics might look effortless, but require both mental and physical strength, discipline, and training.
Torres began dancing in her native Sao Paulo, Brazil, when she 10 years old. She started with ballet and then moved on to jazz, African dance, samba, flamenco, and butoh (Japanese dance form).
When she was 19, Torres left the land of Pelé, the soccer god, for the land of Pele, the volcano goddess, for a three-month vacation that turned into a permanent stay.
Hawaii reminded her of Bahia, her favorite spot in Brazil. "Bahia is a very spiritual, tropical place. There's music and poetry. I used to go there a lot, but had to always go back to the city," said Torres.
According to her, Honolulu, with all its palm trees, music, culture, and development, is the perfect balance between Sao Paulo and Bahia, city and country.
Years after settling in Hawaii, Torres landed the role of Hina in the award-winning show 'Ulalena on Maui. Her preparation for the role included a rigorous three-month training on aerial acrobatics with people from Cirque Eloize in Montreal, Canada.
In 2004, Torres and three other 'Ulalena dancers -- Ana Prada, Marcus Quiniones, and Yayoi Hara -- created Samadhi Hawaii. Since then, Samadhi has evolved into the premier aerial dance group in Hawaii and offers its own aerial acrobatics classes.
Half of the founding members have moved away from Hawaii, but Torres and Prada continue to perform and have adopted new roles in the group. Prada is one of the directors of the group's aerial yoga program. Torres is the director of the group, one of the aerial instructors, and the director of Samadhi's performing arts program for children,
"What if...". Some of Samadhi's young students showed their skills at the state museum's
Samadhi's core dancers are also instructors and include Chandra Miars, Jamie Nakama, and Nicole Young.
According to Torres, the many instructors at Samadhi, the dancers, and the students form an "aerial ohana," where they teach and learn from one another to be disciplined and respectful toward their minds and bodies.
For more information, visit www.samadhihawaii.com.