First Half


WORSHIPING SUN (1995 Production)

Artistic Director/Choreographer
Cheryl Flaharty

Assistant Director
Malia Oliver

Lighting Design
Donald Ranney Jr.

Costumes and Sets
Conceived by Cheryl Flaharty
Created by Sami L. A. Akuna, Jack Boyle, Shaun Ellsworth, Cheryl Flaharty, Katie Giltner, Jeff Haun, Newton Koshi, Dennis B. Miller, Malia Oliver, Summer Partlon, Dack Quigley, Gorden Speck, JoAnn Taira

Additional Choreography for Under the Sun
Malia Oliver and Sami L. A. Akuna

Sami L. A. Akuna
Jack Boyle
David Deblieck
Shaun Ellsworth
Abigail Herrly
Dennis B. Miller
Malia Oliver
Summer Partlon
Caroline Sutton
JoAnn Taira

“As always with Flaharty’s creations, the whole assemblage is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, asserting her and her company once again as one of the most innovative forces in Hawaii today.” - The Honolulu Advertiser

Originally premiered in 1995, the awe-inspiring ‘Worshiping Sun’ is an IONA classic. Majestic and viscerally provocative, this evening-length work in six highly distinctive sections celebrates solar imagery from across the globe, revealing light’s essence as a universal spiritual principle. “From the mesmerizing opening of dancers in priestly garb circling the stage in measured ecstasy, to the work’s culmination in blinding apotheosis, with the company resplendent in gold body paint, ‘Worshiping Sun’ takes the viewer on a journey from cosmic reaches to Earth and back out again.” (Honolulu Advertiser)

IONA's E Season is supported by The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts through appropriations from the Legislature of the State of Hawaii or grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The words "Worshiping Sun" first came to me while basking in the sun on the rooftop of my Diamond Head home. It was like a doorway that had opened –words from the great spirit and the beginning of a new dance that would circle around those words. Also present was the realization that our contemporary society was turning away from the sun and with this act there coincides a turning away from consciousness. Ancient cultures such as the Egyptians and Mayans worshiped the sun not only because of its light and life-giving power, but because of its symbolic nature as the almighty. I knew that the dance to be made would reveal an awareness of spirituality that is rooted in light as consciousness, fire as life force, and gravity as the link between energy and form.

ONE–the first section of the evening-length work is to me the most literal interpretation of the words "Worshiping Sun" and thus the perfect starting point. It borrows its imagery from the Sufi order and from Stonehenge, the ancient house of the sun in England. As the most prominent symbol of wholeness we have on this planet, the sun is represented in the circle of dancers, baskets, costumes, and unison movement. The dancers must see themselves as one body, rooted to the same point at the core of the earth –a profound awareness for all humankind.

SOLAR WINDS is inspired by the paintings of artist Anne Bachelier, the Japanese myth of Amaterasu, and the Hawaiian Sun God, Maui. The prelude to this section is inspired by the Egyptian sky goddess, Nut who gave birth to the sun. SOLAR WINDS is a representation of the sun (and its counterpart the moon) in their more human forms as gods and goddesses. Both the pathways of the sun and moon and their ribbons of light are represented in the costumes and structure of the dance.

The third section of Worshiping Sun, GRAVITY is based on the gravitational pull of the earth to the sun and the manifestation of spiritual energy (God) on earth through the human form. It is inspired by my trip to Italy's Uffizi museum and Louis the 16th, the Sun King's Castle in France. Several of the paintings in the Uffizi are of the Madonna sitting upon an ornate throne. I saw the throne as a frame and realized it is that which frames the subject that makes it sacred. Visiting the castles of France I saw the investments that society put into their kings and queens as material representations of God on earth. This section is layered with many more ideas which l leave to the viewer's own path of realization.

UNDER THE SUN needs no explanation. The solo which concludes the piece stems from my fascination with the egg as a symbol in art. It is layered with so many meanings–seed, future, potentiality, protection, birth, and so on. I see the figure in this section as one who has turned away from nature–does not play in the sun but wears the suit of corporate America, and in fact stands on the last piece of green grass on earth holding the seed of the future.

In the fifth section of Worshiping Sun, THE CIRCLE'S EDGE, we explore the line which separates darkness from light, good from evil, and life from death. The headiest section of the work, it goes beyond literal interpretation: the nightmare of a youth, the events which appear negative but move us into our positive future, the burning away of the old to make way for the new, Father Time who controls our destiny like the sun controls the orbits of the planets, the moment the body realizes its fate and gives up to accept its death so that the soul can transform.

THE GOLDEN ROOM is based on the ancient Egyptian's understanding of the sun as a symbol of rebirth. The dance is set up to be perhaps a secret view into the Pharaoh’s tomb at the base of the pyramid upon the closing of the final vaulted door. When we see the soul as eternal, we realize it is the body that changes–disintegrates, decomposes, breaks away–in order that the soul may be set free. From light into darkness and back to the light is the circle of Worshiping Sun–a journey for the soul.