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Local dancers step up to the spotlight

Maddie Bradley and Ciarra Phillip. Genevieve Simard and Morgan Anderson.
Maddie Bradley and Ciarra Phillip. Genevieve Simard and Morgan Anderson. (Hank Wang /)

Those looking for a quick introduction to what's hot in contemporary dance could spend a small bundle on a whirlwind expedition to New York. Or they could stop by Howard Community College on Nov. 12 and 13 where faculty and students are mounting the second annual HCC Dance Student Showcase at the college's Smith Theatre.

Local college dance departments are a fun place to brush up on modern currents. Late fall programs represent the culmination of a full term's work for many students, who relish the opportunity to show what they've learned to families, peers and all dance lovers. The next time a big-time dance company comes to this area, its members would benefit from going to visit their beginnings.

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What the older dancers should glean from their younger counterparts is that sense of vitality that these students bring to the stage. Their movements are fresh because they still have a sense of discovery. And they are not afraid of dealing with important issues that effect a new generation of dancers.

This showcase is all about the HCC students and how they respond to their mentors' demands. You won't find old war horse ballets here. No tutus to hinder the freedom of modern dance. Instead, the dancers zigzag and bounce in place. They shake their hands to show frustration or joy. And just about everyone has a moment to thrill the audience.

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Eleven dancers will perform their own creations as well as works by other artists, a reminder of just how far we have come with college dance programs. Dance faculty, especially Elizabeth Higgins and Joan Nicholas Walker, have contributed significantly to the success of the HCC dance programs, especially this showcase.

"We will have contemporary dance styles, traditional modern, hip hop, Bollywood and step dancing derived from African roots," says Higgins, who heads up the show's artistic team. After a recent rehearsal at the college, the popular dance teacher shared her thoughts on "artistic growth at the college" and "multiculturalism," a term popularized by Pulitzer Prize winning dance critic, Alan M. Kriegsman.

"The HCC Showcase has been such a rewarding experience," said Higgins. "It's great to have a show where we work so closely with other students that we may either not have known at all, or just didn't know that well, prior to this opportunity. This show really brings us all together as a dance community."

For some like graduating senior Jasper Breslin, this concert is bittersweet. The 19-year-old credits her mentors for helping her become a stronger dancer and choreographer. Her creation, "You Can't Stop Us," set to the beat of the dancers' feet and bucket drumming, should excite the audience.

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"I used this piece to step outside my comfort zone … I wanted to take it up a notch and bring something different to the table," said Breslin. "It's inspired by my own passion for dance and also the idea that you could leave a dancer with nothing but a bucket and we will make our own music and movement."

Diamond Freeman dances in a duet that deals with the obstacles women face in their daily lives and the bonds they form to overcome them. Carlos Miguel Ledesma performs in his physical and daring duet. Hannah Evans and Sylvia Lagas focus on the societal pressure girls feel to achieve perfection. Jessica Wilson and Jazzee Alana Stowers fuse Bollywood dance from India with contemporary western music and movement.

Soloist Alexander Wang uses hip-hop to realize his vision. In her soulful solo, choreographer and performer, Ciara Phillip examines the supernatural. Tori Farnsworth explores partnering and Emily Fuller dances in an upbeat trio that represents the warriors of our world.

"The HCC dance program is a prime example of the performing arts disciplines burgeoning in recent years at the college," said Higgins. "Additional courses are added each semester, and waiting lists for dance classes are growing longer."

Auditions for Howard Community College Dance Company will be held in the Horowitz Center for the Visual and Performing Arts Building (HPVA) Room 115 Friday, Nov. 18, starting at 12:30 p.m. For more information, contact Joan Nicholas-Walker at jnicholaswalker@howardcc.edu.

The Howard Community College Dance Showcase takes place Friday, Nov. 11 at 3 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m., at HCC's Smith Theatre, located within the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. To purchase $5 tickets, visit howardcc.edu/boxoffice or call 443-518-1500. Box-office hours are Tuesday through Friday, from 12 to 6 p.m. and 90 minutes prior to each show.



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