An Interview with Hallie Hunt Armato
BY EMMALY WIEDERHOLT
This interview is part of Where Dance Is, a series of interviews with high level dance artists working in places not well known for dance.
Where do you live and work?
I live and work on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
Briefly describe your history and how you came to be where you are.
I grew up in California and received my dance training at Ballet San Jose, LINES Ballet School and the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. I worked as a professional dancer predominantly in San Francisco with truly fantastic people. Dance was a tremendous part of my life and I thoroughly enjoyed many aspects of living in an inspiring city. I am so thankful for the opportunities I was given. However, I always entertained a dream of living in a more rural place. I felt that the two would not coincide and was happy with that for a long time.
I fell out of love with dance, and I was impatient and impulsive and decided it was a forever feeling. I did not want to be reminded of the world I was so determined to leave by remaining in the city. I wildly packed up and departed for Maui, Hawaii. In my mind I was leaving the city and leaving dance. Of course I eventually fell back in love with dance. But what to do? I had built a life with my husband on this island in the ocean. A home, dogs, surfing in warm weather, teaching beautiful ballerinas. I felt like I had found my paradise, but with something vital missing. Facing that I missed dance and that I had made a mistake to leave that lucky life of dance was not an easy realization for me. So, without planning to, I ended up dancing on Maui, deciding to challenge the standard conforms of where professional dance can take place. Basically, I wanted my cake and I wanted to eat it too.
What does your dance practice presently look like?
With a few good women I co-founded Adaptations Dance Theater (ADT), a non-profit professional dance company. I choreograph and perform for ADT. I also teach for Alexander Academy, a terrific donation-based dance studio on the island.
How would you describe the dance scene where you live?
Small but mighty! Diverse, forgiving and generous.
What are some drawbacks to working in dance where you live?
Unlike a large city, there is not an expansive range of open classes from which to choose. Outside of company class and rehearsal, I drop into student ballet classes from fellow teachers at Alexander Academy. When I can, I try to make it to a samba or hip hop class. I go to get that extra time in the studio. Every dance company that comes through on tour you better believe we are all in that master class. I always feel like I am not dancing enough! Maui gets about three to four dance companies on tour per year, all in the same month. I miss the inspiration of going to see other companies perform frequently. However, I think this has pushed me to listen to my own ideas and create movement from other inspirations. And to be thankful for every class and rehearsal I do participate in!
What are some benefits to working in dance where you live?
There are many small pockets of dance here, both recreational and professional. What I am doing along with the collaborators of ADT is not in competition with the other dance here because we are all bringing something different to our audience. I feel freedom to explore my own creativity without pressure that a plethora of other small contemporary dance companies are doing something similar. I find myself connecting with artists of dramatically different dance forms. ADT recently collaborated with an Odissi (classical Indian dance) company. Also, the audience on Maui is just hands down the best! They are supportive and enthusiastic about dance as an art form, as a way of life and as a performance experience.
Creating personal movement comes from a true place within yourself. Dance is not about working in a big city. It may be harder in many ways, it may be done less, it may present obstacles you have not encountered before but it can take you where you need to go. It takes you to yourself. You are alone; it is quiet so you listen. Hopefully you have something to say.
What do you perceive you can give your community that you wouldn’t be able to in a bigger dance scene?
We can give our audiences a new experience and challenge them to see a different strain of contemporary dance theater. We are invested in Maui’s audience and we hope they will invest in us and become prideful of their resident contemporary dance theater company.
Hallie Hunt Armato received her early training with Ballet San Jose School, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet and the San Francisco Conservatory of dance under the direction of Summer Lee Rhatigan. She performed and toured with The Foundry under the direction of Alex Ketley and Christian Burns, and with Artship Dance Theatre in Serbia under the direction of Slobodan Dan Paich. Hallie is the artistic director of Adaptions Dance Theater and is on faculty at Alexander Academy of Performing Arts.
All photos courtesy Hallie Hunt Armato