About Akari Ueoka
It is not an exaggeration to say that, for Akari Ueoka, dance has saved, sustained, and become her lifeblood. During some of the darkest hours of her life, dance was always there for her and literally brought her back to her feet. According to her mother, Akari even danced in the womb when she heard the folk dance music at a local festival. She was born in Kochi, Japan in 1982. In 2001, at age 18, she moved to Maui without speaking much English.
Akari has loved dancing since she was able to walk. In elementary school, she learned a traditional Japanese dance called Minbu, and she joined the rhythmic gymnastics club in high school. From there, her passion for dance grew stronger, and she studied various dance forms, including jazz, modern, ballet, and hip-hop at the Suga Jazz Dance Studio in Kochi. She also studied Yosakoi dance under guidance of the late Suga Kunitomo, a well-known choreographer/teacher in Japan. Since her introduction to the form, Akari has performed Yosakoi in over 50 cities throughout Japan, Croatia, India, the continental US, and in Hawaii.
In 2005, Akari met Sarala Dandekar on Maui. After falling in love with the performance of Sarala’s classical Indian dance Odissi, Akari began her study with Sarala. Akari had her Manchapravesh, a debut ceremony in 2012. Akari is deeply intrigued by this spiritual, historical, and beautifully intricate dance form, so much so, she traveled to India to study with Guru Jhelum Paranjape in Mumbai in 2013. She also has been taking workshops from Guru Vishnu Tattva Das of California, who is a prominent male dancer.
As much as Akari loves dancing, she also loves working with children. In 2008, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Hawai’i. She took pleasure in teaching 2nd grade at Haiku Elementary School for the past 4 years and at ROOTS School for 2 years. Currently, Akari is taking break from the teaching job in order to focus on her Odissi dance training. In her spare time, she enjoys taking photos, writing, reading, climbing trees, and surfing.