By Mary Johnson, For The Baltimore Sun
10:00 AM EST, November 9, 2013
Founder and artistic director Lynda P. Fitzgerald has announced the celebration of the AACC Dance Company's 25th anniversary at the Arnold campus.
The silver anniversary celebration will run Dec. 5-7, with three performances of the show "Flying by the Seat of our Pants," with a second celebration scheduled May 1-3 with three performances of "Spring Migration" — along with an alumni concert May 3.
All of these will be held at the Robert E. Kauffman Theater at the college's Pascal Center for Performing Arts.
Dance company alumni began the celebrations with an event in July, where alumnus Lance Guillermo and his wife, Danielle Sten-Guillermo, gave two performances of the show "Working America."
Fitzgerald said there's already "been a lot of interest from my alums in performing at the alumni concert."
One of the participating alumni, Jamile McGee, was the third-place finisher in the first season of the television show "So You Think You Can Dance." Guillermo was with the AACC Dance Company for three years. It was at the college that he created some of his first choreography before becoming dancer and assistant choreographer for several Disney Channel productions.
"Both are currently on faculty of two different dance conferences that take them all over the country," Fitzgerald said.
They are among a growing core of former AACC dancers making their mark on the professional dance scene, several as school or dance studio teachers, some owning studios and others starting dance-related businesses.
Fitzgerald says she also feels lucky to have Andre Hinds and Anwar Thomas in the current company.
On board since 2005, Hines is a dancer-choreographer who continues illuminating the Kauffman Theater with his dance vision. Thomas, whose talent has also been nurtured here, continues to grace the college's stage while carving out a professional dance career at Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia; he was nominated for a 2012 Helen Hayes Award in choreography for Toby's production of "The Color Purple."
Alumni success and loyalty reflect the admiration former and current students have for Fitzgerald, who studied dance at Connecticut College and earned her master's degree in education with a concentration in dance at Stanford University.
After moving to Annapolis when her husband accepted a job teaching chemistry at the Naval Academy, Fitzgerald was hired in November 1987 to fill an opening in admissions at Anne Arundel Community College.
She soon added part-time work in recreation studies that evolved into dance concentrations in ballet and jazz. In spring 1989, the college's first dance company of 10 students gave its inaugural performance.
After adding more dance courses and writing a dance curriculum, Fitzgerald suggested adding a dance major in 1995. She also established a service learning component at the college, giving dancers the chance to perform in Anne Arundel County public schools.
From the start, the dance program has held rehearsal classes Tuesdays and Thursdays in the fall and spring. Extra rehearsals are scheduled during performance weeks.
The rehearsal sessions reflect Fitzgerald's style. She gathers her dancers in a semicircle for an informal, informational chat where the exchanges flow easily. The camaraderie is reflected from the start, and pervades the sessions, with experienced students demonstrating complex moves to newer colleagues.
As it reaches its 25th year, the AACC Dance Company is respected as a member of the Maryland Council for Dance, and participates in the American College Dance Festival Association — where dancers are showcased annually at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and judged on artistic excellence and merit. Some 30 colleges routinely participate, and Anne Arundel students are among those in the spotlight.
Of her accomplishment in creating the Anne Arundel company, Fitzgerald says, "I'm lucky because I have fantastic students."
Dance company performances always have an element of spontaneity that lends brightness to Fitzgerald's choreography — and showcases her dancers' superb athleticism and timing.
Those elements will be exhibited whimsically in Fitzgerald's "We're Back" number, which focuses on the topic of aching backs in a humorous take on an often-painful subject.
The 25th-anniversary season of AACC Dance Company is cause for celebration by everyone who enjoys lively dance. The secret is out about this troupe, so it's advisable to order seats now for December performances, which will start at 8 p.m. at the Kauffman Theater.
Prices are $15 general admission, $10 for seniors and students, and $7 for AACC students. Call the box office at 410-777-2457 to order tickets.
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