Excited and healthy, ‘Ulalena’s Maya Iida will be making her acrobat debut this week! A Maui native, originally from Kahului, Maya appeared in her first ‘Ulalena show on January 2nd, 2012, as “Haloa,” the first ancestor to the Hawaiians. Beginning acrobatic training in July 2011, Maya’s journey to making her aerialist debut has been just that, a journey.
Maya has been recovering from a major injury she suffered while training to become an acrobat. She broke three bones in her left hand, requiring her to put her training on the back burner while she focused on rest and recovery. According to Maya the most difficult part of recovery was rebuilding her upper body strength. “I remember joking with my trainer, Kim Breitbach, that I wished I could buy my muscles at the store!” Maya said. “Without the help of Kim, who has always pushed me to succeed, my recovery would have been so much more difficult.”
Now stronger than ever, Maya will get to see her hard work and training pay off in her acrobatic debut as “Laka,” the lizard guardian of the waterfall, as well as “Navigator,” and “Hina,” goddess of the moon.
This former Miss Maui, definitely keeps herself busy. Between ‘Ulalena, teaching, and dancing, I was lucky enough to steal a few minutes of Maya’s time for a little question and answer session, to get to know her “off the stage.”
What roles do you play in the show? What is your favorite to perform?
So far I have played the role of “Haloa,” “Daughter,” the younger sister of the Ali’i, and the “baby tree.” I will soon debut as “Laka,” the lizard guardian of the waterfall, “Navigator,” and “Hina,” goddess of the moon. Of the roles I have performed so far my favorite is “Haloa.” Performing that part allowed me to share my love of modern dance.
How long have you been dancing?
I have been dancing for 10 years. I began my training at the Maui Academy of Performing Arts and continued through the University of Hawaii at Manoa. As a Rainbow Dancer at UH Manoa, I even got to perform at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. My favorite style of dance is lyrical. I feel it matches my personality best and is the style I hope to bring to my acrobatic roles.
What makes ‘Ulalena different than other dance productions you have been a part of?
Besides the longevity of this show, ‘Ulalena is different from other dance productions because the show emphasizes collective rather than individual talent. The Hawaiian culture itself is at the core and is highlighted above all performers.
Other than Miss Maui, what other pageants have you done?
In 2010 I won the Miss Downtown Honolulu title. It was the first title I won and the first year I entered pageants. In 2011 I won the Miss Maui title. It was an honor to represent Maui in the state pageant and place 4th runner up and win the academic award.
What kind of future goals do you have?
I have a passion for educating our youth. Currently, I am an elementary school substitute teacher. ‘Ulalena has always strived to incorporate our children as part of our community outreach with the show. As an educator with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology, I hope to one day contribute toward this wonderful partnership.
Why do you think people should see ‘Ulalena?
For residents, ‘Ulalena is a reminder of all that is at the heart of our island home. For visitors, ‘Ulalena shares a story that will transport them across time and history through chants, dance, and language. When they return to the present moment and go on with their lives, the spirit of ‘Ulalena will remain with them.
What is your favorite memory of being part of the ‘Ulalena Ohana?
My favorite moment of being part of the ‘Ulalena family was being invited up on stage to join in the daily circle for the first time. It was an honor to be hand in hand with such talented performers.
If you had to make a tagline for ‘Ulalena, what would it be?
‘Ulalena: from sky to earth, from past to present, from us to you.
The youngest of five children, Maya admits to being very shy growing up. “I hid in my school classroom from guest speakers like police officers or school photographers,” she said. “When my 8th grade teacher suggested I try out for a musical with the Maui Academy of Performing Arts, she changed my life.” Obviously Maya has come a long way since then. That 8th grade teacher not only changed Maya’s life, but also the lives of her ‘Ulalena Ohana, and audience members – all of whom get the chance to see her passion and talent light up the ‘Ulalena stage.
Come see and support Maya in her acrobat debut this week! Reserve tickets online at http://www.mauitheatre.com or call 808-856-7900.