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

Friday - May 05, 2006
By Alice Keesing
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Marcelo Pacleb with, from left, Conrad Pratt, Pono Aweau, Whyley Yoshimura, Calvin Marquez, Reid Nakamura, Lake Smits and Jacob Himoto
Marcelo Pacleb with, from left, Conrad Pratt, Pono
Aweau, Whyley Yoshimura, Calvin Marquez, Reid
Nakamura, Lake Smits and Jacob Himoto

pageant to the Norwegian Cruise Line ships plying island waters.

“He’s probably the most creative choreographer I’ve seen in the islands,” says Thom McGarvey, chairman of the Miss Hawaii pageant.

“Every year we bring in five judges from the Mainland and I don’t know how many times they’ve said to me, ‘I want to just pack them (Pacleb’s dancers) in my suitcase and take them back with me,’ ” McGarvey adds.

While their shows are always showstoppers, Pacleb’s dancers also win kudos from McGarvey for their professionalism and the environment of respect in which they work.

As the director of this weekend’s shows, Pacleb has the task of pulling together about 200 dancers, some of whom are as young as 5. The energy and dedication of the cast and crew is palpable. Leading up to the performances, they rehearsed seven days a week, coming from as far afield as the North Shore and Hawaii Kai.

“They come by carpool, parents, bus, skateboard ... I’m serious, there is a girl who skate-boards here,” Pacleb says.

The show, called 365, focuses on important days in America from Christmas to Halloween to 9/11. Dora Teraoka, who heads up the high school’s spinoff DanceForce program, promises a great show with some trademark Pacleb-style surprises.

Pacleb no longer dances himself. He stopped about five years ago after he dislocated both knees.

“I miss it, but I live through their energies,” Pacleb says, pointing to the stage where a group of teens is warming up for a rousing, drum-throbbing number that depicts Independence Day.

“There’s so much talent here, it’s amazing,” he says. “It’s raw. But a lot of the kids are brought up with music in their families, listening to music, singing, playing music. They’re so open to Polynesian dance that movement is not foreign to fullest potential.”

Many of Pacleb’s protégés have gone on to big things. They can be found on Broadway and in other major productions around the country. Alicia Vela-Bailey just graced the cover of MidWeek after signing with the Pussycat Dolls. Ryan Sabato dances with Britney Spears. Gil Duldulao is Janet Jackson’s choreographer.

“They go on a first-name basis,” Pacleb says. “They’re like best friends. Gil was just here helping us out last year. He came and taught at the studio. He gave so much of his experience, and the kids really just ate it all up.”

That giving back is important to Pacleb. While he teaches his students the moves, he also tries to impart the attitude: to be humble, respectful and professional.

“You can see hearts on stage,” Pacleb says. “Even though it’s just bodies and it’s just visual, you can see where the heart is, and that’s so important.”

24-VII DanceForce presents “365” at the Ron Bright Theatre, Castle High School, this weekend.

The Friday and Saturday performances start at 8 p.m., the Sunday performance at 4 p.m.

Tickets cost $12 and can be purchased at the theatre box office or by calling 235-5141.

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