Aerial Acrobatic Troupe Samadhi Hawaii to Celebrate 10th Anniversary

The aerial acrobatic performance troupe will make its theater debut as a whole company this September.
Photo: Katrina Valcourt

Behind an unmarked door in the back of a bike shop, a dark staircase leads up to one of Kakaako’s hidden gems: the Samadhi Hawaii studio. Mats lie beneath ceiling-to-floor silks, which dancers climb and wrap around their bodies mid-air in quiet feats of strength. The studio is hot, but the heat is better for their muscles than air conditioning.

Andrea Torres, a native Brazilian who had previously danced in the theatrical production Ulalena on Maui and for Iona and other dance companies, founded Samadhi Hawaii with fellow dancers in 2004. “I feel like it was given to me,” she says. “I feel responsible for aerial work in Hawaii.” At the time, Samadhi was the only aerial acrobatic performance troupe in the Islands, but it’s more than that—it’s a school, too, with regular sessions and private lessons available. Torres also co-founded Volary Aerial Burlesque with other company members who say that when they work together, it’s magical. They’re like a family.

“It’s kind of like a halau,” Torres says. “If you want to perform with us, you’ve got to hang out with us and make that commitment.”

Aerialists practice their moves on the hoops and other apparatuses behind us—climbing, swinging, twirling—as Torres tells me about Samadhi’s upcoming theater debut. Though it’s been 10 years, the company members have never performed a showcase together in a real theater. “With aerial, it’s hard to find a venue,” she says. The ceilings have to be high enough to accommodate them, and there has to be somewhere the riggers can hook everything up safely. They’ve performed in theaters before, but only for others’ events, never their own.

The 10th anniversary of Samadhi Hawaii will be commemorated with a production called Samadhi Live at Mamiya Theatre. “The concept of Samadhi Live is live music and collaboration,” Torres says. Each teacher will perform a piece in collaboration with featured musicians: vocalist Starr Kalahiki, composer John Signor, ukulele queen Taimane Gardner, harpist Sharene Taba, taiko drummer Mike Gonhata, a didgeridoo player and other guests. “It works like a music concert,” Torres says. “We only meet in the theater, and it all comes together.”

The Samadhi Hawaii Youth Company, Volary Aerial Burlesque, advanced students and guest dancers will also perform.

Samadhi Live takes place Sept. 20 at Mamiya Theatre on the St. Louis School campus. There will be shows at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40–$45 and available at, along with class schedules. Check the website for details.