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Modern dance is alive and well at Howard Community College

Niaya Koryne is front and center in Jasmine Glaze’s bubbly dance for Howard Community College's Fall Dance Showcase.
Niaya Koryne is front and center in Jasmine Glaze’s bubbly dance for Howard Community College's Fall Dance Showcase. (Sarah English / HANDOUT)

The legacy of Eva Anderson lives on at Howard Community College, especially during its Fall Dance Showcase on Nov. 15-16.

A renowned dancer, director, choreographer and costume designer who taught at the college, “Miss Eva,” as she was known in the dance world, would have been impressed with the diverse program and its “POWER” theme.

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She certainly would have been proud of HCC dance major Jes Powell, the recipient of a scholarship named for the late doyenne of dance. As the creator of unique costumes for her dance company, Anderson might have chuckled at the funky aqua overalls in the piece by Powell, a lovely dancer with a wry smile and gift for design.

Mainly, though, Anderson would have been thrilled that modern dance is alive and well in Columbia, where she lived for four decades before her death in 2017.

It’s always a treat to observe a rehearsal. Recent sessions proved that student performers are worthy of a showcase and can put on a terrific show with help from their teachers and a few semesters under their belt. Their works look fresh, and they are not afraid of dealing with important issues that affect each generation.

Last week in the college’s dance studio, a dozen students, clad in assorted leotards and neon-colored tights, rehearsed their dances like pros. Between the leaps, falls and bouncing on gym balls, they listened to their mentor, Elizabeth “Liz” Higgins, offer some timely advice to the “wannabe” choreographers.

“Open” is the key word to describe Higgins’ approach to guiding her students.

“Think of opening your arms into space,” she said, demonstrating a gesture that captured the good feelings of the afternoon rehearsal.

Howard Community College alumna Sara Ciniero leads the HCC dancers in Jes Powell’s abstract portrayal of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Howard Community College alumna Sara Ciniero leads the HCC dancers in Jes Powell’s abstract portrayal of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (Sarah English / HANDOUT)

“The fall showcase has been a rewarding experience,” said Higgins, who coordinates the artistic team. “These dancers inspire me.”

This showcase is all about the HCC students and how they respond to their mentors’ suggestions, and just about everyone has a moment on stage to thrill the audience.

In the six pieces, choreographed and performed by HCC students and alumni, look for a diverse range of styles. These young artists explore humor — a recurring theme — and delve into the deeper issues of race, persecution and conformity.

Andrea Martine examines emotions associated with the 1692 Salem trials in “Burn the Witch.” Nelson Espinoza portrays the range of emotions immigrants may endure during this scary time in “Fear within All.”

“Heart and Minds,” a poignant solo by Becca Izzi, finds the dancer freeing herself from rigid movements to a joyous conclusion set to a Phillip Glass composition.

On a comic note, Jasmine Glaze premieres “Power Hour,” a theatrical dance about working out at the gym to cool music with electric bright tights and big, bouncy balls used throughout this romp.

A personal favorite is Sara Ciniero’s dance to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Other highlights include a piece by Towson University guest dancer/choreographer Vincent E. Thomas and three featured HCC faculty choreographers. Look for a lot of angst along with frivolity.

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Higgins challenged Darion Smith, director of the dance department, to perch on a 4-foot high box as he struggles to survive in the dance “Shadowboxing.” Smith’s own work navigates the intersection of three characters that find themselves in a zany existence.

“Thursday’s Child,” created by Desiree Koontz-Nachtrieb, seeks to examine the absurdity of it all.

“The HCC Showcase has been such a rewarding experience,” Higgins sums it up in a post-rehearsal moment. “It's great to have a performance where we work so closely with so many students. This show really brings us all together as a dance community.”

The Howard Community College Dance Showcase will be performed Friday, Nov. 15, at 3 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. at HCC’s Smith Theatre, Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. $15 tickets; $10 for students, seniors/faulty/staff/military. Go to howardcc.edu or call 443-518-1500. Each online order includes a $3 charge. Box office hours are Tuesday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m. and 90 minutes prior to each show.

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