Hines taps out special magic Dancer helps to raise money to improve lives of children


ENTERTAINER GREGORY HINES sprinkled a little stardust last night on the lives of three students from The Flair Modelling and Dance Studio in West Baltimore when he invited them to tap dance for a capacity crowd at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Noel Montague, 13, Angel Watkins, 12, and Jasmine Leigh, 9, eagerly volunteered when the famous tap dancer called for fellow dancers to perform brief solos on stage. Ten-year-old Camille Fesche, a student at Peabody Conservatory, created a special sensation when she managed to tap in sneakers.

"I was nervous," she said. "But I felt it was a real honor to be up there with such a star."

The impromptu performance -- Hines also joined his admirers in several of their solos -- brought thunderous applause on this night dedicated to improving the lives of children.

Well known for his work on Broadway and in such films as "Tap," "White Nights" and "Cotton Club," Hines brought his dance floor and eight-member club act to Baltimore to help raise money for the Advocates for Children and Youth, Inc., and the Maryland Friends of Foster Children Foundation.

Advocates for Children and Youth, Inc., is a four-year old non-profit organization which works to help fight such statewide problems as child abuse and neglect. Recently ACY has helped secure funds to support education before kindergarten and provided legal counsel for Baltimore City students who had been suspended or expelled.

The Maryland Friends of Foster Children Foundation, also founded in 1987, gives grants to pay for "extras" -- such as a second pair of replacement eyeglasses -- that Medicaid and state foster care payments will not award to children in foster homes.

Hines provided a lively 90-minute show which ranged from his renditions of such ballads as "When I Fall in Love" to a speaker-jolting "The Heart of Rock and Roll" and offered a handful of anecdotes which included memories of an early job at Baltimore's Playboy Club: a '60s date played with his family's act, Hines, Hines and Dad.

But it was those moments when his feet found voice which created magic in symphony hall. When he tapped without accompani- ment, Hines seemed a master technician. His feet performed a music which could travel from the suspense of mere suggestion to the thunderous climax of a fireworks display.

He also made it look like fun.

"Not yet, not yet," he coached some members of the audience he thought were applauding prematurely at one point. "Not yet, but soon. I promise!"

About 2,400 people attended last night's benefit. Each organization hoped to raise about $25,000.

As the smartly dressed crowd streamed into a champagne reception, many seemed inspired by the entertainment as well as the causes behind it.

"I thought the show was really excellent," said 10-year-old critic Liz Lauren. "And I liked the way Mr. Hines involved everyone."

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