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Ako, whose three albums and concert appearances have won Hawaiian Music Awards, a Hawaiian genre Grammy entry in 2010 and widespread recognition in California and Hawaii, was born and raised on Oahu. The youngest of 15 children born to Mormon missionary parents from the French Polynesian islands, she’s a multicultural blend. “Our culture is very family-oriented so we were all about music, the food. I am a mix of Samoan and Caucasian influences,” Ako says. Improbably, Ako grew up disliking Hawaiian music and instead, developed a strong preference for throwbacks such as the Temptations and Natalie Cole, and contemporary artists such as Sheryl Crow and Grace Potter.

“It wasn’t until I was 40 and started to think I needed to de-stress that I turned to Hawaiian music, My husband brought me a record and said I had to listen to it, It’s true: Hawaiian music relaxes you, allows you to breathe,” she says, Ako, 57, often plays the ukulele and will appear with her band at the Bankhead, Ruiz’s dancers will join her for three to four traditional songs she will select from her albums to perform, “The traditional music is slower and sung with a falsetto (high) voice, white ballet flats with ribbon It’s a style developed by people singing in their backyards,” Ako says, “I’m more contemporary, because of my training, I use half-Hawaiian, half-English lyrics and you get a more sassy, jazzy, spirited Hollywood sound.”..

During her 45-minute set, Ako will perform “Enihi Kahele,” a more traditional song from her first album. The words tell the story of the last Hawaiian monarch, King David Kalakaua, whose wife, Queen Katiolani, was about to sail to England. “He had inner emotions about the trip. He was worried and asked her to be careful,” Ako explains. “The melody is so touching, the words give you a feeling of his love, of his special prayer for her.”. Ako sings a phrase — the melody rolls like a wave and the words slip softly off her tongue, leaving an impression of longing and tenderness.

When Oakland Ballet dancers take to the stage at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday, they’ll be celebrating a 50th anniversary that almost didn’t happen, Nearly 10 years ago, the company went out of business, the victim of a combination of financial challenges, changing audience tastes and other factors that had taken a toll on arts institutions all over the United States, The following year, founder Ronn Guidi came out of retirement to resurrect the company, With the help of longtime dancers and supporters, he staged a one-night performance of Nijinsky’s groundbreaking 1912 “Afternoon of the Faun,” as well white ballet flats with ribbon as some more modern works, The purpose was to reflect the eclectic mix that had garnered the thriving regional dance organization international acclaim through the 1990s, It reminded people of why they love the company, bringing it back to life..

So it’s fitting that “Afternoon of the Faun” is back for this weekend’s celebratory performance “Five Decades of Dance,” a showcase of 14 works that looks both forward and back. Graham Lustig, Guidi’s London-born successor as artistic director, selected it as a way of paying homage to Guidi’s legacy. “There is a poetic quality to this dance,” said Lustig, overseeing a recent rehearsal of the 11-minute piece. “It’s almost like a painting, like colors in a Tiffany panel that shimmer and change.”.

In addition to “Faun” the program will feature revivals of works by some of the company’s most famous collaborators, including Alonzo King and Carlos Carvajal, and present new works by Lustig and other Bay Area choreographers, The idea, Lustig said, is to demonstrate the company’s ability to endure in white ballet flats with ribbon an era when arts organizations of all sizes and pedigrees — from New York’s Metropolitan Opera to Ballet San Jose — still struggle to stay financially solvent and culturally relevant, Today the company’s mission is to “step out of the ivory tower of ballet” and engage with a vibrant Bay Area arts scene that Lustig says is increasingly centered in Oakland and the East Bay..

“As Brooklyn now is to New York, Oakland is to San Francisco,” Lustig said. “Artists are getting priced out of San Francisco, and there is so much artistic activity here in Oakland.”. Besides, while “Faun” may be more than 100 years old, Nijinsky’s choreography, paired with Claude Debussy’s romantic score, is surprisingly contemporary, Lustig says. Lustig, who took the artistic reins in 2010, began dancing at age 5, trained at the Royal Ballet School of London and has performed and choreographed works all over the world. He is passionate about using dance to tell stories and create stunning tableaux. But he’s also keenly aware that he and his colleagues won’t be able to do their art unless they sell tickets, keep donors interested and engage new audiences.

The company has stabilized its finances by relying on a combination of corporate, foundation and city of Oakland white ballet flats with ribbon grants; individual donations; and “robust” ticket sales from their annual production of “The Nutcracker.” With a $615,000 budget in 2015, the company now offers 10 weeks of employment to 12 dancers and runs a year-round dance academy, Michael Morgan, maestro of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, which teams up with the company every year for “The Nutcracker,” is happy to see the Oakland Ballet hanging in..

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