There's a sense of urgency in the midday rehearsals in the dance studio at Glen Burnie High School, where teen-age girls leap and stretch to the music of New Order.
"Last week was supposed to be our week to get it done, and it snowed," dance teacher Dianne Rosso says as she scrutinizes the students' movements. "We have just these five days to get this piece back in shape."
The school dance company was rehearsing "Kinetic Impulse" Monday, choreographed a year ago by Ms. Rosso and then-senior Heather Schneider, in preparation for a performance Saturday in Washington. The piece was selected for the National Dance Gala, part of the American Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance conference.
"To be selected by them is an incredible honor," Ms. Rosso says. In her 21 years teaching at Glen Burnie, this is the first time an Anne Arundel County high school dance troupe has been invited -- based on a videotape audition submitted in December -- to perform for the national organization.
Five of the troupe's 11 members who danced on the tape graduated in June. Their replacements have spent many hours this school year learning the jazz piece.
"There's kind of a panic," says Christine Downin, a 12th-grader.
Healthy tension aside, the student says, the dancers are excited about the show, confident that their hours on the dance mat will result in a performance they can be proud of.
Student performers, whether they plan to pursue dance studies beyond high school or not, often put in extra hours to get their individual steps right.
"It's a matter of being dedicated. It's what I plan to do for the rest of my life," says Christine, who recently auditioned for the Towson State University dance program.
"The people that we're putting into it are real good dancers," says senior Cara Thomas.
"When these kids are on stage performing -- their stage presence is wonderful," Ms. Rosso says.
Since December, dance students have attended several classes taught by a member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem and four members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
The high school boasts a large dance program in its mirrored studio. This semester, about 90 students are enrolled; they can apply dance courses toward the physical education, fine arts or elective education requirements.
The school will be the site for the 12th annual county dance festival, rescheduled to March 31 from March 17 due to the snowstorm.