Lutherville resident steps into limelight with award for dance instruction

Most of Lutherville resident Brooke Kuhl-McClelland's day is spent in a dance studio in Howard County.

When this veteran dance teacher's students give a public performance, she prefers to be off to the side — watching as her students bask in the applause.

But last month the spotlight and applause were for this teacher, who instructs dance students at Hammond High School.

Kuhl-McClelland's career earned her one of the four Howie Awards, handed out at the 15th annual "Celebration of the Arts in Howard County" on March 24 in the Peter and Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at Howard Community College.

"I teach life through dance. It's not just teaching dance steps, but teaching them cooperation, self-esteem and a whole lot of other skills they need in life," said Kuhl-McClelland with characteristic enthusiasm. "I have kids that say to me that dance is what makes them want to come to school."

She loves to introduce the students to dance styles including classical ballet, modern, jazz, tap and African, with all of their dance moves being done to her original choreography.

When her students aren't performing at school, they participate in events that include dance festivals as well as an annual trip that the school's dance troupe makes to Disney World in Florida.

Kuhl-McClelland, who was named Howard County Teacher of the Year in 2006-07, traces her lifelong love of dance to the early training she received at middle and high schools near her childhood home in Cockeysville.

She received her undergraduate degree in dance from Towson University.

Besides dance, she also has a strong interest in sports — Kuhl-McClelland is the lacrosse coach at St. Paul's School for Girls, in Brooklandville.

Although her current after-school lacrosse coaching job is a short drive from her home in Lutherville, her full-time job teaching dance at Hammond involves a longer drive that is by now second nature to her.

When this 47-year-old dance teacher started at Hammond High in 1989, she only had two students. She has 155 now.

But as the dance program at her school grew, the size of the dance staff did not. The full-time teacher not only heads the dance program, but is the dance program.

"When I have a department meeting, I am a solitary island unto myself," she laughs, adding that having one full-time dance teacher per school is the norm for county high schools.

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