All eyes are on 16-year-old Tracey Vermette as she moves in smooth, even strides across the wooden floor, arms and a leg extended while balancing on her other leg.

She is then surrounded by other dancerswho move in unison past her in time to classical music. Despite a wobbly leg or missed move here or there, Tracey and other participants in the week-long dance camp at Arundel High School say it's all for fun.

"It's my fourth year, and I learn a lot each year," Tracey says. "If I weren't here, I would probably be at home swimming. I definitely want to come back next year."

Though her aspirations are to become an elementary school teacher, she says she hopes to continue dancing.

Sixty-four girls ranging in age from 9 to 17 are scattered throughout the building rehearsing dance steps, listening to tips on makeup and stage presence, and building their self-confidence.

For the last three years, Kiya Holmes, a 12-year-old student at Severna Park Middle School, has returned to the weeklong dance camp to learn just a little more about ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance. And this summer is no disappointment.

"It's fun, but the best part is ballet," Kiya says. "I'm learning a lot."

Dance instructor Anne Parshall has a small group of students in the school gym for ballet. And on her signal, students on tiptoes, with heels in the air, move across thewooden floor, then in arabesque position, performing gracefully underneath basketball goals.

Next door, modern dance students roll across the floor, then spring up to one knee keeping time to the music.

As students practice for their finale performance Friday night, some appear almost professional while others struggle like young fillies. But they all seem to be having a good time.

"I hope they all have fun learning to dance," camp coordinator Judi Keck says. "We have students who have never had a dance class and some who have been performing in the Nutcracker for years. We are also teaching them techniques under the direction of really good instructors."

Keck is physical education department chairman at South River High School and directs the school dance company. But she is also one of the originators of the camp designed to expose students to the different types of dance and what it means to become a professional dancer.

Campers signup in January, when they participate in an audition to determine their level. This year, Keck said she had to turn students away because she wanted to keep the classes small and manageable for instructors.

Students faced almost a 50 percent increase -- $120 for the week -- after school board members voted that summer camps must be self-supporting. At least one scholarship is offered each year. In previous years, boys have participated, but none signed up this year.

Keck proudly discusses the camp offerings, including the accompaniment of professional musicians for some of the classes, daily guest speakers and small classes for beginners to experienced performers. Students also participate in a talent show, where they are allowed to display other talents.

But students are already buzzing about the culminating performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the school auditorium. There, they will perform dance steps they have practiced the entire week before parents and anyone else interested in the free performance.

Sharon DiPace, a professional dancer with the Kinetics Dance Theatre in Ellicott City, leaves a lasting impression on students by offering tips on the "dos and don'ts" of performing through a

rap. Gathered inthe school cafeteria with black tights and pink leotards, students roar with laughter at DiPace's whimsical method at making her point.

But in the end, the girls come up with their own rap to remind themselves of what is expected of them Friday night.

We're the dance camp of '91

And we are here to have some fun.

We made a list andwe're checking it twice

To remember our stuff that will make us look nice.

Here's the stuff that will make us look fit,

Nail polish, base and a sewing kit,

Tutu, towels, Band-Aids and shoes,

Come and join us, there's nothing to lose.

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad