The UH Rainbow Warrior Dancers gear up for the 2017-18 season.
By Lance Tominaga
“Five, six, seven, eight… Again!”
It’s 4:30 in the afternoon. Inside Studio 2 at the University of Hawaii Music Building, the UH Rainbow Warrior Dancers are working on a new routine. Music reverberates from a boom box tucked away in one corner of the studio as team captain Hailey leads the group through every precise sequence.
“Okay, good. Let’s try it again, this time at a faster tempo. Let’s go…”
Taking in the scene is Janelle Sanqui, the squad’s new Director and Head Coach. It’s clear that Sanqui, herself a Rainbow Warrior Dancer from 2006 to 2009, is thrilled to be back at her old stomping grounds.
“It really is a dream come true,” says Sanqui. “I’ve always had a very special place in my heart for the Rainbow Warrior Dancers. So to be able to come back and see [the program] through a whole different light is really great for me and, I think, great for the team.”
Sanqui oversees a co-ed team of about 20 dancers. Auditions were held in early April, and the squad is busy preparing for the UH sports season ahead.
“I really want them to be a team, a cohesive unit,” Sanqui says. “We’re putting together a mission statement for us, and we’re going to live through that statement to get to where we want to be at the end.”
What qualities does she look for in a Rainbow Warrior Dancer?
“You have to have pride in the University of Hawaii, and pride in being a part of the Hawaii community,” she explains. Really, UH is Hawaii’s professional sports [franchise], and we need to give our teams our full support. Our dancers play an important role in doing that. We’re cheerleaders. We tell stories. All of that is reflected in our movements and routines.
In a nutshell, the Rainbow Warrior Dancers are proud ambassadors of both their university and UH Athletics. It’s a responsibility that Sanqui fully embraces, and a role she excels at.
“When I was a Rainbow Dancer, every time I walked into Aloha Stadium, I would feel this huge sense of responsibility and commitment to our school,” she recalls. “Once, we met this young girl who was dressed in a UH outfit. She was so cute! Her mom told us that her daughter was going to be a future Rainbow Dancer. That’s the kind of stuff that you remember and cherish. I had a great time representing UH as a student-athlete artist.”
In 2015 and 2016, Sanqui served as the Aulani Resort’s first-ever Disney Ambassador, representing Aulani at various resort activities, media functions and community events.
In addition, Sanqui still leads classes at 24-7 Danceforce, the renowned dance education program founded in 1991 by Marcelo Pacleb. Pacleb himself oversaw the Rainbow Warrior Dancers program for many years.
“Marcelo continues to inspire me,” says Sanqui. “He continues to remind me to stay organized and see things through, and to have the team at heart when making decisions.”
Sanqui is largely responsible for the dance routines you see at the UH games.
“I do get to work on a lot on the choreography. My captain, Hailey, does as well,” she says. “We pull from different dance genres so that our dancers feel comfortable. We let them show off their styles. It really takes a lot of practice and knowing your body. Our dancers have to find their groove and spirit.”
What’s the biggest misconception people have about the Rainbow Warrior Dancers?
Sanqui smiles. “That they’re just good looking,” she says. “I mean, yes, they’re attractive. But they’re also very talented, smart, driven and motivated individuals.”
The Rainbow Warrior Dancers will make an appearance at the 49th Annual Special Olympics Hawaii State Summer Games, set for Friday, June 2nd at Les Murakami Stadium. The squad will perform during the Opening Ceremonies (7:00 to 9:30 p.m.). For more information, visit www.specialolympicshawaii.org.
Want to learn more about the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warrior Dancers? Look for exclusive video of the team coming soon at Sideline Hawaii, the official app of ESPN 1420. The video will introduce you to several new and returning members of the squad!