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Honolulu Dance Studio with Cathy and Kyle Izumi

Beyond the Steps!

By Sharonne Gracia

Have you ever found a place that feels like a hidden treasure? Here’s a place where every step moves you in the right direction.

I frequently find myself getting used to the familiar places around me, knowing their ins and outs, and their everyday rhythm. And then, out of the blue, I discover a place that reveals a whole new experience, a vibrant energy and a welcoming spirit full of creativity.

Right in the heart of the lively Kaka’ako neighborhood in Honolulu you can find Honolulu Dance Studio. A vibrant space surrounded by a mix of businesses including our Still & Moving Center [seriously, we’re still trying to figure out if it ever stays “still”!], the convenient Whole Foods and the delicious smell of Thyda’s taco truck.

Last week I had the opportunity to interview Kyle Izumi, one of the forces behind Honolulu Dance Studio along with his mother Cathy Izumi. It all began with Cathy’s childhood gymnastics background, which gave birth to her dancing dream when she left college, which led to her creation of Honolulu Dance Studio back in 1988.

Cathy originally called her dance company ‘Honolulu Girls’ because, well, she didn’t have any boys in her dance group. But hey, over time, boys like her son Kyle decided they wanted in on the action, so Cathy opened her doors to all genders. Inclusivity is a big part of this studio’s mission. Kyle shares about how his mom’s first group of students became like extended family, ‘ohana. The bond formed between Cathy and her early students became the foundation for the studio’s growth.

I have to confess, this was my first time conducting an interview and I was feeling a little insecure. From the moment I heard Kyle’s voice, it was like catching up with an old friend. His confidence and warmth immediately put me at ease. Kyle’s genuine personality made my entire experience secure and welcoming. Kyle surprised me by admitting that he had a case of the butterflies, too. I didn’t expect that, as he sounded very confident.

As a child, Kyle was shy and nervous. Honolulu Dance Studio allowed him to blossom into a vibrant teacher and overcome his shyness, both in the dance studio and out in the world. “It’s not just about dance, it’s about creating well-rounded individuals,” Kyle shared about one of the studio’s goals.

Their mission? “Aim for excellence, not perfection. Giving your best is what truly counts!”

Transitioning from a timid kid to a teacher who had to learn to communicate effectively and respectfully, Kyle believes in the whole-person approach of Honolulu Dance Studio. Beyond the dance floor, Kyle applies the lessons from those nerve-racking situations. It’s not just about the dance moves; it’s about transforming life’s unexpected challenges into victories. As he puts it, “For me personally, when I’m really nervous, I’ll just treat the situation like a performance.”

This perspective has become his secret weapon, helping Kyle navigate through moments of nervousness, including this interview, he said! Kyle highlights, “Performance training really teaches you to interact with people, not necessarily to put on a show, but to put on a brave face, especially in tight and difficult situations”.

Kyle has been dancing for 33 years and passing the moves forward since he was 14 years old. Training across the world from Japan and Germany to Holland, Canada, and the United States, Kyle is now in the business of sprinkling confidence dust on the kids at Honolulu Dance Studio. The teacher in him thrills to watch shy kids open up on the dance floor and come out of their shell into confident individuals. [Kyle, you’re doing the kind of work that makes hearts do a happy dance!]

When the pandemic happened, Honolulu Dance Studio demonstrated that it’s more than just a dance studio; it’s a true ‘ohana. Kyle shared, “The students’ families kept us going. Our families rushed in to help, and our staff treated the studio as their own family. That’s why we’ve been able to stay in business for so long.” The teachers went the extra mile by generously offering their time, making sure that families hit hard by COVID didn’t have to worry about things like paying for dance classes. The community truly came together in their effort – the magic behind their remarkable resilience.

The incredible role that family plays in shaping Honolulu Dance Studio stands out to me. “All of my siblings work in or have worked in the studio,” says Kyle. “My uncle always comes and helps us with the stage crew. My dad used to be the stage manager, which my younger brother has now taken over. My older brother works the light and sound for shows. My sisters do the admin work.”

It’s not just the Izumi family that makes the studio special. The heart of the studio is also supported by the students’ families and neighboring businesses. Some families have gone to enormous lengths to support the studio through their volunteer efforts towards the mission to assist families with financial pressure. Parents and their children frequently come together to dance, share food, and see each other perform sometimes in the parking lot!

It also gratifies me to watch two side-by-side studios – Honolulu Dance and Still & Moving – collaborating with one another on events. In 2022, Cathy Izumi even trained at Renée Tillotson’s Academy of Mindful Movement, Still & Moving’s sister company. Why compete when you can collaborate?

I jumped into the interview not knowing much about Honolulu Dance Studio, even though it is right next to Still & Moving. After we finished the interview, I found a new appreciation for the community and the environment Kyle and Cathy Izumi have created. This family-owned business opens its doors to everyone. Honolulu Dance Studio teaches so much more than just dance steps, they teach students to move through life.

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This post is also available in: English (英語)