Romi Beppu starts warm-up exercise with her students.
Romi Beppu starts warm-up exercise with her students.

Principal Dancer Romi Beppu is Training the Next Generation of Principal Dancers

Gregg K. Kakesako
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

At age 34, ballerina Romi Beppu had realized most of her dreams: She had attained the rank of “principal dancer,” and she had toured the U.S. mainland, Europe and Japan with major international ballet companies. At that point, Beppu decided it was time to begin another phase of her career — passing on her passion for dance to another generation of ballerinas.

“I wanted to teach,” she told The Hawai‘i Herald. Beppu is working to instill in her young students her passion for dance, her work ethic and the discipline she committed herself to during her 16-year career as a professional ballerina.

“I felt I had accomplished much of what I wanted to in my professional dancing career, was interested in teaching, coaching and wanted to dedicate more time to starting my next career and purpose,” Beppu said. “I am a big believer in giving back, especially if you have been given much.”

Romi Beppu danced professionally for 16 years with the New York-based American Ballet Theater, which has been recognized as a living national treasure since its founding in 1940; Boston Ballet and Ballet West in Salt Lake City. Having learned “how the system works,” she said she wanted the autonomy to share her talents with Hawai‘i’s youth.

This past June, Beppu, now 39, celebrated her fifth year as the owner and artistic director of Honolulu Classical Ballet by opening a new studio in Kaimukï. It is the home of her dreams: The principal architect was Ma Ry Kim of G70, and Hawaiian artist Kalili Chun contributed an original art piece called “Manu O Ku,” which Beppu said represents the white bird that is an inspiration for the studio’s mission and dancers.

More than 100 people turned out for the opening of her new studio, including several students who were in her first classes in Kaka‘ako five years ago.

Lily Johnson, who graduated from Punahou School this past June, said there were four students who started ballet with her in 2012. He mother, Allison Johnson, described Beppu as “the most perfect teacher and role model. She’s everything you want in a teacher.”

Lily Johnson, who is now attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, said she plans to “keep dancing” while pursuing a career in science.

Other alumni include Gabi Legaspi, who is attending the University of Utah, working on a double major in mathematics and dance. Another Beppu alumnus, Lauren Thompson, is a trainee at Ballet West.

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Romi Beppu’s Honolulu Classical Ballet studio is located at 1122 Kokohead Ave. in Kaimukï. You can visit her website at hcballet.com.

Gregg Kakesako worked for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Gannett News Service and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for more than four decades as a government, political and military affairs reporter and assistant city editor.

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