The Art of Taking Flight

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Exercise reaches new heights with Samadhi Hawaii

Text by Rebecca Pike | Images by Jonas Maon

First noted in Europe in the 19th century, the art of aerial dance was long practiced only by cirque performers and in tiny pockets of dance communities. Moving from awe-inspiring climbs to gasp-inducing drops, an aerial performer suspends from a long, strong “silk,” today made of a synthetic blend rated to hold the weight and impact of a falling body. (What is the physics formula for a 100-plus-pound package dropping 30 feet?) The silk is rigged to a scaffold, ceiling, or even tree. The resulting performances, which have taken place from the 1880s to contemporary times, is graceful, nail-biting, and a bit mind-bending.

Today, the tricks of the trade are entering the mainstream. Most major cities have at least one studio offering classes on dancing with aerial silks (some are even insisting on practicing yoga while wrapped in the things). In Honolulu, the studio is Samadhi Hawaii in Our Kaka‘ako. Renowned for its elaborate aerial shows, especially in outdoor spaces with silks hung from high trees, the company is also an established teaching studio.

Samadhi Kakaako“My theory is, ‘Come and hang with us,’” says Samadhi owner and bona fide sprite Andrea Torres. “There is no prerequisite to learning.” The Cooke Street studio, which opened in 2005, now offers around 30 classes per week for kids and adults.

Most of the regulars here are dancers, but Samadhi also has a strong following of folks who are looking for a new and different form of exercise. “It’s way more fun than the gym and very physical,” says exercise physiologist and Samadhi regular Reggie Palma. “I’m a lot stronger and more muscular than I was, and I’m a better professional because of what I’ve learned to do with my body.”

With a continual sway broken only by climbs and drops, the dancer appears to be taking flight—a dreamy, fairy fantasy-like effect—and may spend quite a bit of time horizontal or even upside-down. When choreographing, says Danielle Cohen, who has been performing aerial dance since 2008 and is now a founding member of the aerial burlesque dance troupe Volary, the trick is to achieve the movement and drama that you want while always considering the grip the dancer must maintain on the silk. If it’s not being grasped with hands, it’s wrapped securely around a limb or extremity. “So you’re somewhat restrained,” says Cohen. “But little hurdles help find new paths.”

Samadhi Hawaii is located on the 2nd floor of 330 Cooke St. in Boca Hawaii. For more information, visit


Art for the Soul

Art for the Soul, SALT

Like the saltpans that inspired its name, SALT will enrich Our Kaka‘ako. In this case, it will be with a public art program.

Text by James Charisma | Image by John Hook

When SALT, the new restaurant and retail center in Our Kaka‘ako, opens in late 2015, it will debut with more than 12 massive works of site-specific public art. The canvases will range from building and alley walls to the entire facade of a parking garage. These creations are intended to serve not only as the face of the new shopping hub, but also as its spirit.

“We have a saying in Hawaiian, ‘E pū pa‘akai kākou,’ says Keoni Kelekolio, Kamehameha School’s director of Hawaiian language advancement. “It literally translates to, ‘Let’s share salt,’ but can be interpreted to mean, ‘Come as you are, bring what you have,’ as all contributions to a meal are accepted and valuable, no matter how humble. Today we’d say, ‘Don’t worry, no shame, just come.’ This is the same casual feeling we want at SALT, where people can meet, share ideas, talents, and food.”

Named for the fishponds and numerous pa‘akai (salt) pans that were abundant in Ka‘ākaukukui, known today as Kaka‘ako, SALT will span an impressive 65,000 square feet. The center is designed to serve the residents living within the area, and to contribute funding to Kamehameha Schools’ educational initiatives statewide.

Another part of SALT’s purpose is to recognize and reflect upon the history of the Kaka‘ako region: It was first a home base to King Kamehameha I and his court, and then an important place for Native Hawaiian agriculture. Here, the spirit of industry lives on. The commissioned pieces of artwork for SALT will serve as a creative narrative for the future.

“We want every courtyard, nook, and alley at SALT to be interesting and discoverable,” Paul Kay, Kamehameha Schools director of development, said in an April press release announcing the public call for artists. “The art, architecture, and industry will combine to tell the story of what was here before us and also be a space to create new stories too.”

Managing the call for artists is Hazel Go of WCIT Architecture. She says that the public works have an opportunity to bring the community together. “From what I’ve seen happening in Kaka‘ako and with groups like Pow! Wow!, it’s apparent that art has not only beautified the facade of businesses in the area, but helps to tell the tale of a community,” Go said. “Whether working together to create art, enjoying an art exhibition, or just looking at a mural, it’s a great conversation starter.”

Kamehameha Schools seems to agree, committing $280,000 for the 12 works, even though the art may change five years down the line. “The work is intended to be a sign of the times,” Go explains. “It makes the streets more walkable and it’s good for physical health, emotional health. It encourages people to come together and helps create energy.”

SALT at Our Kaka’ako, located at Keawe and Auahi streets, will open late 2015. For more information, visit


Adventures by Foot

Adventure by Foot, Kakaako


A half-day jaunt starting in Our Kak’ako yields everything from savory ramen to a salty swim.

Text by Kelli Gratz | Images by Jonas Maon and John Hook

The key to a walkable city is not just the pedestrian experience, but the way in which the urban fabric sharply and ceaselessly flows with the human tide. Cars do not entirely need to be discarded, but they do need to make way for transit. Spaces need to not only allow for safe and comfortable travel, but also to be entertaining. Taking cues from walkable cities like Manhattan and San Francisco, Kaka‘ako is quickly showing that there is much to gain by planning for the pedestrian. Besides helping improve health, finances, the environment, and overall sustainability, it is said that walkable cities simply make you happier. With this thought in mind, I decided to ditch my car and experience the city as a true pedestrian, diving into local comfort cuisine, swimming in the ocean, scouting a healthy dinner spot, finding an amazing cocktail, and marveling at an architectural wonder.

Start at Our Kaka‘ako
Under the direction of my tastebuds, I head for Our Kaka‘ako’s 65,000-square-foot epicenter, SALT, its grand opening slated for the end of this year. While it’s still in construction, the bones are all there—Cocina, Insomnia, Paiko, and Brue Bar, to name a few. For lunch, I walk over to Hank’s Haute Dogs, a small mobile space reminiscent of a ’60s drive-thru, for some local comfort food. Locals dine on communal tables at an outdoor parklet, Instagramming their dogs dressed in a variety of colors. I opt for a Hawaiian Dog with Portuguese sausage, mango mustard, and pineapple relish, and wash it all down with a refreshing Pineapple Ice (the restaurant’s equivalent to a 7-Eleven Icee) as people talk brightly about the upcoming weekend.

Kaka‘ako to Ala Moana Beach Park
There’s something about the middle of the afternoon; the ocean practically beckons my name. I respond with a resounding, “On my way!” I head to Bikefactory, and minutes later walk out with a bike rental. If you’re feeling the heat of the day, biking is a great way to see all of Kaka‘ako and the surrounding areas. No sweat. Across the street, Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park offers a year-round chance to swim in the Pacific Ocean or enjoy a picnic on its expansive grassy hill while checking out the waves of popular surf spot Point Panic. After a quick dip in the salty water by way of concrete stairs leading down to a protected swimming spot, I decide it’s time for some serious sunbathing. I bike a few blocks east on Ala Moana Boulevard to a sandy beach that yields avid swimmers, runners, and laughing children.


Ala Moana to Chinatown
In just a matter of hours, I’ve knocked two things off my list, leaving healthy dinner, drink, and architectural wonder remaining. Sunbaked, I pedal west on Queen Street. Considered a “back street,” this safe and uncrowded route takes you straight to Downtown Honolulu, where buildings hold the weight of history. I pass by Kawaiaha‘o Church Cemetery, then the unoccupied red brick Honolulu Brewing and Malting Co., which brewed Primo Beer from 1901 to Prohibition. I even ride along Honolulu’s first concrete sidewalk. Hanging a right onto Bishop Street will bring you past the Stangenwald Building, Honolulu’s first ever high-rise, completed in 1901 and designed by one of Hawai‘i’s prominent architects, C.W. Dickey.

All this architectural feasting calls for a terrific meal. In my opinion, Lucky Belly on Hotel Street is the place to go any day or night. The polished concrete interior and clean lines complement their fresh Asian-fusion menu options like pork belly bao, oxtail dumplings, and shrimp gyoza. If you’re really hungry, opt for the Beast Bowl, a savory ramen with brisket, short ribs, and oxtail won tons.

Chinatown to Salt
The fish might be asleep, but the city is just getting started. Heading back east, I join some friends at Bevy, the neighborhood’s go-to place for bespoke cocktails and gastronomic delights. A snug locale that feels like it’s been here forever, it features bold graphic art on the walls, denim-covered seating, and splashes of metal that capture the essence of Our Kaka‘ako’s industrial forgings. The highlight of the hip bar is the Moscow mule, made with vodka, lime, and house ginger beer. Or, try the exquisite Italian Geisha, which layers flavors of Campari and Hakushu 12 with the spicy, citrusy warmth of Créole Shrubb and bubbly lightness of sparkling sake.

When Bevy opened in 2013, we felt so good after a few Moscow Mules that we accidentally tried to walk out with the copper mugs that held them. Not much has changed since then. On this breezy night, it seems everyone is here: young hipsters, middle-aged couples, swanky elite. The walk-friendly reorientation of Kaka‘ako entices a broad range of people. Reassembling a neighborhood whose history is deeply embedded in cultural encounters is no easy feat, but it seems it won’t be long until we see just how appealing walking can get.

Kakaako Walkability


Juice Head

Juice Head, Lankai Juice

Lanikai Juice’s cold-pressed beverages bring one writer back to her flavorful childhood.

Text by Lisa Yamada | Image by Rachel Halemanu

In 1996, my parents started juicing. They spent $250 on a twin-gear Green Power juice extractor, with a tagline on its promotional brochure that read, “the standard by which all other juicer [sic] are measured.” A few years later, they dropped $2,000 on a Norwalk hydraulic press juicer, considered by many to be the best on the planet. Twice a week, they’d pulverize beets, ginger, bell peppers, greens, parsley, and a 50-pound bag of carrots. My mother spent hours grinding veggies into a pulpy soup, scooping them into cloth bags and waiting for the hydraulic lift to press the pulp-filled bags into pints and pints of vegetable juice.

It was potent stuff: slightly bitter from the greens and parsley at the start, a powerful kick from the ginger at the finish. My father had read a book or something of the sort about the power of raw foods, and when a cough I had for months finally subsided after a three-day diet that consisted of only his miraculous juice concoction, he was convinced of its health effects. From that point forward, he made me drink the juice twice a day—a cup in the morning and a thermos packed with lunch.

Back then, I didn’t know that my parents were way ahead of their time or that their method of cold-pressed juicing would be so on point today. Unlike traditional juicers, which utilize quickly spinning blades that can get hot and decrease nutrients, cold-pressed juicers do not add heat, an omission thought to make a more nutritious juice.

Of course, like many of the things our parents try to impress upon us, I took their juicing regiment for granted. It is only too ironic, then, that today I will gladly fork over $10 for a 16-ounce bottle of Lanikai Juice’s cold-pressed Glow n’ Green juice (made with celery, romaine, parsley, kale, dandelion, cucumber, and pineapple) and guzzle it down. It has the same freshly squeezed taste as the concoction my parents would make.

For those ready to devote themselves to the cause, Lanikai Juice also offers Wiki Wiki juice cleanses for novice and experienced users, during which they consume six difference kinds of juices for one, two, or three days. Whether you’re looking to kick-start the beginning of a healthier lifestyle, or boost your immune system like I did all those years ago, a juice cleanse can inspire wellness and mental clarity. Plus, the blends of fruits and vegetables make for ice-cold drinks you can feel good about. At least that’s what dad would say.

Lanikai Juice is located in Our Kaka‘ako at 680 Ala Moana Blvd. For more information, call 808-262-2378 or visit


Growing Communities

Urban Farm Hawaii

Urban Farm Hawaii digs up solutions for reconnecting people to the food they eat.

Text by Matt Luttrell | Images by John Hook

Across from the University of Hawai‘i’s John A. Burns School of Medicine is a small, quarter-acre lot that is home to a scraggly patch of weeds. But Urban Farm Hawaii, the nonprofit that will transform the space, envisions the land as a harmonious display of urban agriculture in action, where educational programs will be held to teach community members how to repurpose unused land parcels, and tended plants will provide food for the area. For Hunter Heaivilin, Urban Farm Hawaii’s director, this Ilalo Street plot will be the seedling that grows into a movement of “city agriculture for all the city’s people.”

Urban Farm Hawaii was founded in 2011 by three agriculture and urban planning students at UH Mānoa who were concerned with Hawai‘i’s dependence on imported foods. The nonprofit hui wanted to get their hands in the ground and find a way to reconnect people with growing food in Honolulu’s urban core.

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In Kaka‘ako, things took off for the group when they gained access to the land in front of the old Comp USA building on the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and South Street in December 2013. On the tiny parcel, co-founders Andrew Dedrick, Mitchell Loo, Nate Ortiz, and volunteers planted 28 different varieties of dry-land kalo (taro). Although Urban Farm Hawaii only had the land for an eight-month period due to redevelopment, and the taro is no longer there, landlord Kamehameha Schools was impressed by the endeavor and gave the nonprofit a one-year lease for their current plot.

Heaivilin took on an active leadership role last year, right around the time he graduated with a master’s in urban and regional planning from UH Mānoa. He has been working in the area of sustainable development for the past eight years. “The world we are born into is not the only one that can exist,” says Heaivilin, who is passionate about making O‘ahu a better place through repurposing urban land. While researching his thesis, Heaivilin discovered nearly 10,000 acres between Pearl City and Kahala that could potentially be farmed, should circumstances require it.

It’s estimated that Honolulu imports more than 90 percent of its food. While Urban Farm Hawaii does not preach complete independence from imported foods, the nonprofit knows that a balance needs to be found, and soon. But no one said starting a revolution in local urban agriculture would be easy. Right now, Urban Farm must begin, literally, in the weeds.

Help this small nonprofit engage the community and weave ecosystem services and social interactive spaces back into Honolulu. To learn more, visit


Feeding Hawaii Together

Giving Tree, Feeding Hawaii Together

How one nonprofit has been supporting communities from its Kaka‘ako location since 1993.

Text by Christa Hester | Images by John Hook

When you run an organization that gives everything away for free, you can’t afford to be greedy. That’s what makes Charlie Lorenz, executive director of Feeding Hawaii Together, so good at his job—or rather, his calling.

Since opening its doors in Kaka‘ako in 1993, long before the area became a creative hub, Lorenz’s nonprofit has supported low-income individuals and families by providing food, clothing, furniture, and other items. “We gave away over three million pounds of food last year,” Lorenz says. The nonprofit gets the majority of its food from Hawaii Foodbank and stores that donate mispackaged, dented, or mislabeled food that can no longer be sold on the market but that is still perfectly safe to consume. “Most of that food would have gone into landfills,” Lorenz says. “So we’re feeding the hungry and also reducing waste.”

Three days a week, clients wait their turn to shop, selecting what they need from a produce section with fresh and packaged food and a household section with furniture, clothes, books, and more. “When we first opened, we thought our clients were mainly going to be homeless,” Lorenz says. “We were surprised when we found out who was actually coming.” Only 10 percent of the nonprofit’s shoppers are houseless; the rest are mostly low-income families, individuals, and senior citizens.

Feeding Hawaii

“There are lots of senior citizens in this area who come, and we even have five women that carpool from Wai‘anae,” Lorenz says. “They come from all over. They’re scared to be homeless, so they pay their rent, then buy some of their medication because they can’t afford it all, and lastly, they go buy food.” Many clients only have enough money and food stamps for three weeks out of the month, which means that some weeks can end up being really bad. “Like cat and dog food bad,” Lorenz says. But by turning to Feeding Hawaii Together, such difficult weeks can be avoided.

Most food pantries hand out prepared boxes of food, but because Feeding Hawaii Together has enough space, they created a grocery store. “People may have diabetes or different dietary needs or likes,” Lorenz says. “So if they can shop once a week and pick out what they want, there’s less waste because they’re actually getting things they’ll eat.”

As Lorenz walks around the nonprofit’s facilities, he stops at every turn to say hello to a fellow volunteer; ask how someone’s family is doing; or receive a small gift from one of the kids. After years of running the organization, he’s realized that fulfilling this community’s need also means spending time with its people.

With the nonprofit’s support, many clients make better lives for themselves. “We had a family that shopped here, then started volunteering,” Lorenz recalls. “One day they tell me, ‘We have bad news. We got jobs, so we can’t volunteer anymore.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s great! That’s what this is all about!’ This story just repeats itself so many times. That family now has a cleaning business, and they’re just loving it, making lots of money, and contributing back.”

Feeding Hawaii Together is located at 615 Keawe St. and is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Learn how you can get involved at