Maui News

Maui Dance Studio Finds Temporary Space After Kula Building is Condemned

May 3, 2017, 12:29 PM HST
* Updated May 3, 12:52 PM
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Temporary space at Seabury Hall, May 2, 2017. Teacher: Absalon Figueroa. Photo by Chelsea Fine.

With just one month to go before their Annual Spring production, some 150 dancers with Alexander Academy of Performing Arts are practicing at temporary sites after being forced from their studio at the Old Kula Community Center on Monday.

The County of Maui Department of Parks and Recreation immediately condemned the building after a hazardous materials survey confirmed the presence of chipped and deteriorating lead paint.

On April 24, the non-profit dance academy was given a week to vacate the premises, which it has used for more than two decades.

It has since secured temporary space for the month of May at Seabury Hall. Some of the younger child classes are being accommodated at Kula Elementary, where a room is available for two Saturdays this month, and other classes are being accommodated at a private studio Upcountry on Wednesday mornings.

So far, Danelle Watson, the director at Alexander Academy of Performing Arts, said the academy has not had to cancel one rehearsal or class, but notes that nothing in the way of rehearsal space has been secured beyond the month of May.  “We’re still working on our summer schedule and have nothing set yet,” said Watson

Temporary space at Seabury Hall, May 2, 2017. Teacher: Absalon Figueroa. Photo by Chelsea Fine.


According to Watson, a committee has been formed to find a solution, and has raised the issue with local government leaders.


Watson said her “Plan A” is to get approvals to move back into the building and save it from being torn down.

“We’re hoping we will take on the liability and maintain the building in the hopes that we can get a lease.  We have a lot of support and know we can do it for a lot less than quotes provided by the county, and up to code with permits,” said Watson, who is also exploring a “Plan B,” which is to look for a new home.

In an interview last week, County Parks Director Kaʻala Buenconsejo told Maui Now that the urgency to vacate was in the best interest of the children and ballet group using the structure.


He told us that in addition to the hazmat results, the structural assessment indicated that there is just one year of life left in the building from an engineering standpoint, and said total repairs to the building would cost an estimated $1.4 million.

Watson said the academy found a painter who is certified to handle lead paint, that would be able to conduct that portion of the work at the Kula studio with in-kind donations of time and manpower for a maximum of $1,000.  That’s well below the projections Watson said were provided by the County.

While County property tax records date the building to 1935, Watson said she is trying to research the history of the building, noting that a portion of it may date back 40 years earlier to 1895.  “We also think it was the second Japanese language school outside of Japan, the first was on the Big Island, and that is no longer around,” said Watson.

She said that although it is hard digging up the paperwork, an effort is being made to find more records on Oʻahu in the hopes that she can keep the building standing, so that nothing gets torn down.

Watson feared that, “without  someone being there regularly, it’s going to fall apart quickly.”

According to Watson, the school started in 1990 at Makawao Union Church, but moved to the Old Kula Community Center at least 20 years ago.  She said that while students have moved out, she still has studio items within the building.

She said that if the studio is allowed to maintain the building, it would be a “win for everyone,” including the landowner, the studio and other organizations that use the space.

“The space is bigger than me; and it’s not all about our dance studio being there.  While we have a passion and we’ve become very attached to it and would give it the love and attention it needs, that building has been there a long time, and lost of people have special memories,” she said.

The academy’s Spring production, “Once Upon a Time: Storybook Dances,” will be held on June 3-4, 2017 at the Seabury Hall’s ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center.  Choreography includes ballet, contemporary, and jazz dance styles including excerpt from the ballet Les Sylphides and solos featuring graduating seniors.

Three performances throughout the weekend will showcase the talent and skill of dancers from ages three-years-old to adult. Tickets are available online.

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