You can say that Christine Yasunaga's
dance career has come full circle.Ten years after landing a role in the original cast of The Lion King on Broadway, the onetime struggling, aspiring dancer turned professional is now giving back to the local dance community through her new TV show Destination: Groove Dance Hawaii.
...Jordan Segundo, Christine Yasunaga with daughter Myla, choreographer Karine Plantadit and Yasmin Dar .
..."I wanted to do this show because I really wanted to help guide dancers here in Hawaii,"says Yasunaga, a 1989 graduate of Iolani School who now teaches dance at Iolani and Punahou as well as Pilates at Heaven On Earth.
"I've done everything from Snoopy's World of Magic to a Broadway stage.I've had a successful career as a professional dancer, but I've also had my struggles.
"I remember living in Brooklyn, in the snowstorm, living on saimin, but I would still get on that subway and go to classes or auditions." Yasunaga
admits that it's "extremely difficult" to become a professional dancer because there are simply more dancers than jobs. Her
advice is to have a strong drive, put yourself out there, meet people, take classes and not give up.
"For The King and I on Broadway, I auditioned six times before I got it," she
remembers."On my third try they told me,'We love you but we don't have a part for you,' and I said, 'I'm going to keep coming back until you hire me.'" Yasunaga, who was born and raised in Hawaii, graduated from UCLA where she majored in dance.
After college, she
joined a modern dance company in L.A.
but "didn't do too well in Hollywood," and decided to move to New York.
"It was frustrating not working," she
(front, far left) as an original cast member of The Lion King
had 13 costume changes in The Lion King
, playing everything from the lioness to the gazelle, the hyena and the fliers in the air.She
also met her
husband, Darryl Pellegrini, while working in the show."He was the drummer in the pit," she explains.
In 2003, the couple, still living in New York, welcomed daughter Myla to the world.The next year they decided that Hawaii "was a much nicer place to raise a child."
"I was a successful dancer but it was time to move on and be a mother,"says Yasunaga
."And then coming back home and seeing various dance concerts, I felt that Hawaii has special talent here and I wanted to help open doors for them."
10 years as a professional dancer, Yasunaga
has made many friends in the business, and she's
now using those connections to not only help with her
show, but also help the contestants in achieving their dreams.
"The support for the show has been wonderful,"says Yasunaga
."So many people really believe in the talent and in what we're doing.We're already talking about season two."
Filming for Destination: Groove Dance Hawaii wrapped up in August, which means the winner has already been selected.However, Yasunaga
and the show's crew have their lips sealed, at least until the final show airs on Dec. 2.
And while the judges were given the difficult task of picking the winner, viewers will get their chance to vote for their favorite dancer throughout the season on the show's website www.destination-groove.com beginning Sept. 30.
The winner of Hawaii's favorite dancer will also be announced on the last show and receive a dance scholarship to Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio
in Hollywood and a cash prize.
"There was a lot of emotion during the elimination rounds," says Yasunaga