Professional dancer Christine Yasunaga, a member of the original “The Lion King” cast, has returned home to Hawaii to give back to the local dance community with the TV show ‘Destination: Groove Dance Hawaii’ hosted by Yasmin Dar and Jordan Segundo
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reographers include Aliane Baquerot (a 1996 Olympian who has danced with Michael Jackson and Marc Anthony, and in Broadway’s Contact, Movin’ Out and Saturday Night Fever), Artem Chigvintsev (a world-class ballroom dancer, finalist/choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance, and boyfriend of local girl and Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba), John Selya (a dancer/choreographer with American Ballet Theatre, Twyla Tharp Dance and Broadway), and Karine Plantadit (a dancer in Broadway’s The Lion King, Saturday Night Fever and Movin’ Out, in the movie Chicago, and with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater).
The show also features judges based in Hawaii, including Marion Morrison (choreographer, show director and casting consultant for Walt Disney World Florida), Peter Rockford Espiritu (choreographer and artistic director for Tau Dance Theater),Andrew Sakaguchi (dancer and choreographer), John Rampage (artistic director for Diamond Head Theatre), John Willis (hip-hop extraordinaire), and Derek Daniels (owner of Derek Daniels Productions).
The first two shows were taped in the Tropics Showroom at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and the remaining 10 shows in Paliku Theatre at Windward Community College. Shows four and on will feature a Dance Move of the Week segment which was taped at The O Lounge.
“The support for the show has been wonderful,“says Yasunaga.“So many people really believe in the talent and in what we’re doing. We’re already talking about season two.”
Filming for Destination: Groove Dance Hawaii wrapped up in August, which means the winner has already been selected. However, Yasunaga and the show’s crew have their lips sealed, at least until the final show airs on Dec. 2.
And while the judges were given the difficult task of picking the winner, viewers will get their chance to vote for their favorite dancer throughout the season on the show’s website www.destination-groove.com beginning Sept. 30.
The winner of Hawaii’s favorite dancer will also be announced on the last show and receive a dance scholarship to Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio in Hollywood and a cash prize.
“There was a lot of emotion during the elimination rounds,” says Yasunaga.“I completely stayed out of the judging. I wanted to mother them and guide them.And even though (production of) the show is done, the opportunities for the dancers are still happening.We have two boys who were offered roles in the upcoming Nutcracker (at Leeward Community College).
And it’s not just the contestants who are making the most of their time on the show. Hosts Jordan Segundo and Yasmin Dar, both 22, also consider themselves lucky to have been chosen for the job.
Segundo, who became known as Hawaii’s first American Idol when he made it to the top 32 in the 2003 season of the show which Ruben Studdard went on to win, has been branching out from his musical career.
Last year he made his acting debut in a musical production in Hawaii Opera Theatre’s The King and I with Richard Chamberlain. And now with Destination: Groove Dance Hawaii, he serves as co-host and scriptwriter.
“Music will always be my main goal, but I’m also realizing that to be successful you can’t put all your eggs in one basket,” says Segundo. “I’ve been doing some song-writing and I’ve been taking piano lessons from John Tussey. I also still take voice lessons from Neva Rego, and I took acting classes with Yasmin to prepare for Destination: Groove Dance Hawaii. So, I’m constantly learning.”
Segundo also is a full-time student at Honolulu Community College, where he is learning about the music industry through the school’s new Mele Program offered in conjunction with Belmont University.
He also will be the featured performer in the upcoming nationally televised Miss Hawaiian Tropic Pageant taking place later this month at Turtle Bay. And he is the new spokesman for the Hawaii State Storm Water Management Program and for Adult Friends for Youth.
As for Dar, a 2002 graduate of Aiea High, being on TV is a childhood dream come true. “When I was about 4 years old, I was very influenced by TV, and it was a secret dream for me to be an actress,” explains Dar, who is half Pakistani and half Filipino. “I studied at the University of California San Diego and graduated from the University of Hawaii in biology and was on track to becoming a doctor, but instead I decided to pursue my true hidden passion, which is the arts.
“It took a while for my parents to understand, but they’ve been very supportive of my decision. I just think it’s important to be successful but happy at the same time. And I never want to wonder what if. Med school will always be there.”
In addition to Destination: Groove Dance Hawaii, Dar has worked on TV shows Lost and Hawaii, and is seen in many ad campaigns throughout Hawaii including L&L Drive-Inn and The Tower Grill restaurant.
Destination: Groove Dance Hawaii airs on Sundays at 7 p.m. on KHNL 8, and re-broadcasts on Mondays at 10 p.m. on KFVE.
And mark your calendars for The Lion King Cabaret Show For Destination: Groove Dance Hawaii Oct. 22 at the Halekulani Hotel.
Tickets are $100 per person (includes heavy pupu and show, no host bar), or $200 per person (includes reserved seating in front, wine, heavy pupu and show, no host bar).
Sponsor tables are also available starting at $2,000.
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