My passion for dance and theatre started at the age of three. I told my mom I wanted to be like the girls on TV, which apparently was some kind of gymnastics thing at that moment on the screen. So she put me in a class, and I absolutely hated it. Then she thought, “oh maybe she meant dancing!” and thus put me in my first ever dance class. I was immediately hooked… and didn’t stop dancing until I started college.
Today is my 27th birthday. It is crazy to realize that for most of my life, I could be found at Diamond Head Theatre sitting in the green room with my stinky dance shoes, my big jug of water, hanging out with my dance friends. All of that got put on hold to pursue my academic dreams, but recently I have been thinking back to those good old days. And today, as we celebrated and danced with Ms. Deanna, everything came full circle. The same faces that I grew up knowing were sitting right back with me in the audience as we reminisced about one of the most genuinely nice people to ever grace the face of this Earth.
Ms. Deanna Luster. As stunningly beautiful as she was on the outside, she was even more beautiful on the inside. Dancing was her life and passion, fulfilling her dreams and being such a great role model to all the students she encountered. She was my dance teacher for over ten years, probably one of the longest I’ve ever had. She always understood my love for dance, and how much I hated to sing. She’d always remind us to point our toes, suck in your stomach to make your posture better, stand with confidence.
I haven’t seen Ms. Deanna in a really long time. The last time I probably saw her was the last time I was in a show at DHT. I actually haven’t even been back to see shows that much since I started college… now that I think back on it, I’m trying to decide if it was worth it to give up dance all together? Should I have stayed on, at least for 1 dance class a week? The friends I made at DHT really became family… and that was made totally clear today, as we all gathered to celebrate Ms. Deanna’s life. I recognized so many of the moms, and so many of my old friends recognized my mom before noticing me!
After I found out about Ms. Deanna’s passing, I wrote this on Facebook:
During my undergrad [in geology], I studied a lot about the luster of minerals. Every once in a while, Ms. Deanna’s smiling face would pop into my head… how fitting, that the definition of luster be: a glow of light from within; an inner beauty. Nothing could describe you better, Ms. D. Your energy, love, happiness, radiated from within you. It was deep, it was pure, and it was unshakable.
You were hard on all of your students, but we never doubted how much you loved each and every one of us. How can someone be/feel like an aunt, teacher, mentor, sister, friend, all at the same time? I’m not sure, but you sure did that for me. For a lot of us.
I will never forget the Shooting Stars days at the Hawaii Theatre, standing in the lobby waiting for that first song to start… you, making us all do those “relaxation” stances. I still find myself putting the tips of my fingers together when I’m stressed or nervous. I will always be grateful for your love and support, and will never forget how you graciously opened your closet to me when I couldn’t afford a prom dress for senior prom. And I will never forget my only Punahou Carnival experience, when we parked at your place and walked to the carnival so that we wouldn’t have to fight for parking.
Your soul touched many, and we are all so grateful to have been graced by you. I haven’t seen you in a while, but I’ve always been missing you… will miss you until I get to dance with you again. I love you. I still can’t wrap my head around this, but one day I will. RIL, Ms. D ❤
This is the dress she let me borrow for Senior Prom. I remember having the time of my life, dancing my heart out with my friends. I even got to choreograph the prom courts dance, something I wouldn’t have been able to do without the training I got from Ms. Deanna! Tonight, I got to dance to the song Happy by Pharrell Williams with my second family, in honor of Ms. Deanna. What a fitting way to celebrate her life, to have a dance party.
Now that I sit here and think about the many years I learned from Ms. Deanna, I am reminded of one of my most favorite musicals: Once on This Island. It has become very popular, thanks to the new show in NYC and amazing cast to tell the story of a little island girl who falls in love with a rich boy and ultimately sacrifices herself for him. I remember one of my favorite dances of all time was to the song “Rain”. Flash forward fifteen years, and here we are, and here I am studying the chemistry and dynamics of rain as a major component of my PhD…
I still can’t believe she’s gone. Maybe it’s because I was so far removed from that world, I didn’t even know she was sick until I heard she had passed. But she played such an instrumental role in my life growing up, always there as a friend and role model to guide me. It’s always hard to come to terms with the passing of a loved one whom you thought you had more time with, had another chance to see, had the opportunity to dance with in the future. I can’t find any pictures on Facebook… probably because I would have to dig back into the MySpace of Xanga days of social media… or even to days before digital cameras!
I know I’ll be okay, we all will be okay, we just need some time to reflect back on what an amazing gift it was to share months, a few years, maybe even a few decades with Ms. D, and cherish those memories. I know she is dancing away in heaven, no longer in pain. But I so selfishly wish I could give her a hug one more time, tell her how much she meant to me, still means to me even if I didn’t see her much, and how I love her. I can’t think of a better way to spend my birthday than to come together with friends and family from across the country to celebrate one of the most amazing people in the entire world. I love you, Ms. Deanna.