Honolulu’s Own Lord Of The Dance
From his 24-VII troupe to the Rainbow Dancers to sending students off to dance with Britney and Janet, Marcelo Pacleb is tops in Hawaii terpsichore
By Alice Keesing
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Marcelo Pacleb rehearses 24-VII dancers for this
weekend’s shows. From left, Reid Nakagawa,
Conrad Pratt, Orlando Ortega, Lake Smits, Jacob
Himoto, Calvin Marquez, Pono Aweau and Whyley
Like the Pied Piper of Hawaii, Marcelo Pacleb gets people dancing wherever he goes.
When 24-VII DanceForce hits the stage, it’s Pacleb directing the show.
When the Rainbow Dancers do their thing, Pacleb is there.
When the Miss Hawaii contestants pull out a Dancing With the Stars-style routine this year, it’s Pacleb who will have brought it all together.
All this dancing from one guy who was too shy to dance even one dance at his senior graduation party. Dancing came late into Pacleb’s life, but when it came, it came on with a force.
These days everyone in the local dance scene knows who he is. He’s choreographed countless stage productions, winning two Pookela awards in the process. He’s taken his dancers onto the national stage. And he’s started many a young performer on the road to the big time, performing with the likes of Britney and Janet.
“He’s totally awesome,” says Gwen Nakamura, assistant band director at the University of Hawaii where Pacleb directs the Rainbow Dancers. “His ideas, he’s just incredible. I’m always floored by the stuff he comes up with - it’s so creative.”
Pacleb confers with dancers Calvin Marquez and
For all that he’s accomplished over the years, it’s somewhat surprising that this is the first profile story - ever - on Pacleb. This is a guy who doesn’t like to talk about himself. He doesn’t even go out on stage to bow with his dancers at the end of a performance.
In fact, he was maneuvered onto the cover of MidWeek by colleagues and his dancers’ parents who, to a person, say, “It’s about time!”
And so maneuvered, Pacleb last week took time out from the rehearsals of 24-VII’s shows this weekend at the Ron Bright Theatre in Kaneohe to talk about how it all came together.
Pacleb grew up in Aiea in a family of four boys and three girls. The bit about not dancing at his senior prom is true.
“I was too shy,” he says.
It wasn’t until he started at Leeward Community College that Pacleb took his first dance class. It was something of a personal dare to do something different.
“Once I started, I just loved it so much,” he remembers.
In 1981 he was hired on with the Akiko Dance Company - and he’s bluntly honest that it wasn’t a raging success. Akiko Masuda wanted to fire him, but Pacleb hung in and persevered.
After that, he spent a year on Maui performing in a musical. Then he started teaching in the schools, which eventually brought him to Castle High where he wound up doing choreography for Ron Bright.
“He’s the main reason why I’m here doing what I’m doing,” Pacleb says. “He’s the one who believed in me.”
Now 47, Pacleb can look back with a smile and declare that he’s never had to work a “regular” 9 to 5 job in his life.
In 2000, Pacleb founded 24-VII DanceForce.
“A bunch of us used to come (to Castle High School); we used to train each other, just have fun and put dances together,” Pacleb says. “It wasn’t a formal thing. Everybody worked or went to school, so we had a hard time finding a good rehearsal time. We ended up rehearsing at 5 in the morning, so we used to say we danced all day and all night - and that’s how we came up with the name 24-VII.”
Now 24-VII DanceForce has a studio in Windward Mall, where they teach classes in ballet, jazz, hip hop and drumming. The 24-VII dancers also perform their hot act all over the island from the Miss Hawaii
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