I am blessed to have spent the past twenty-eight years collaborating in life and in art with my husband Darryl Thomas. I consider myself one of the “lucky few” who have lived the dream of being a working performing artist for the past 4+ decades. It brings me daily the joy of creation, has enriched my life with a multitude of strange and wonderful experiences, and has given me the chance to explore the world. As if that would not be blessing enough, dance brought me the perfect partner to share in this fantastic life, and finally landed me in the green rainforest paradise of the Willamette Valley where I have continued my professional dance work as Artistic Director of Rainbow Dance Theatre and Director of the Inspiration Dance Company.
From the time I could walk, I have been immersed in dance, first on Oahu the island of my birth, where I learned to dance by imitating the graceful movements of the hula dancers on Waikiki. After moving to the mainland, I studied ballet, jazz and tap at local studios before attending the University of Iowa, where I received a Bachelor of Arts in Dance with Phi Beta Kappa honors at the age of twenty. With degree in hand I (literally) hopped on a bus to New York City to pursue a dance career with a wide-ranging number of modern dance choreographers including Merce Cunningham, Nina Weiner, Mel Wong, Marta Renzi and Douglas Nielsen, performing throughout the United States and Europe. As a guest artist I danced as well with The National Ballet of the Netherlands and the Hawaii Opera Theatre Ballet. After a long absence I returned home to Hawaii to teach at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where I met my future husband. Our first collaborative work titled “Earth Suite” premiered in 1992 in Honolulu and featured music performed live by Hawaii’s preeminent world-beat band Cabaseke. Since then art has taken us together “around the world and back again”, finally landing in Monmouth, Oregon in 1997 where I teach from time to time as adjunct professor of dance at WOU; direct, choreograph for and perform with the professional dance touring company Rainbow Dance Theatre (RDT); and am honored to have directed the Inspiration Dance Company (IDC) for the past 12 years.
Professional awards and honors include receiving the Award for Choreographic Excellence from the Hawaii State Dance Council; representing the WOU Dance Department with the 2006 presentation of my original work The Lisa Variations at the National American College Dance Festival at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC; receiving the prestigious Creative Heights Initiative Grant for the creation of SELFIE from the Oregon Community Foundation; and additional grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Oregon Arts Commission, the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Walmart Foundation and Willamette University’s Center for Community Innovation. With Rainbow Dance Theatre I represented the USA at three World Expos in Spain, Japan and China. Additional international festival presentations include those in Mexico City, D. F., Taegu and Pusan, South Korea, Vancouver, BC and Edmonton, AB. With RDT I travel regularly on performance tours and choreograph for, direct and manage the nine-member touring ensemble, presenting more than 60 concerts annually for audiences of all ages.
In addition to my work with RDT, for the past twelve years I have had the honor of serving the Salem and Monmouth/Independence communities as director of the Inspiration Dance Company (IDC), offering year-round community dance classes, facilitating community outreach and directing the annual mid-winter and spring dance recitals attended by over 1000 Salem community members. I have been blessed to have as staff at the IDC some of the most accomplished dancers, choreographers and dance educators in the area, instructors who constantly amaze me with their creative talents and their passion for dance. I am additionally blessed with an extraordinarily supportive IDC community, with whom I have strived to create an inclusive, welcoming space for all of our students to learn and to thrive. Even as we move through some very difficult times, I know that the strength of the IDC community, our students and our instructors will not waver, and that we will together continue to provide a safe haven for creative expression and positive social interaction.