When high school ballet dancers Alison Pie and Laurel Marsh stand in the spotlight today, their performances will not only touch the hearts of those in the theater but the lives of members of a growing community -- people with AIDS.
The two Oakland Mills High School juniors have produced a full-length ballet production for credit as their project in the county school system's mentoring program. They will donate the proceeds from the performance to HERO, the Health Education Resource Organization in Baltimore.
Tickets are $4 for students and seniors, and $5 for adults for the 3 p.m. performance today at the 250-seat Slayton House in Columbia.
"We hope to make at least $500 to $600," said Alison, 16.
She said she has seen how acquired immune deficiency syndrome has attacked the life of someone she knows in ballet.
"It's spreading so rapidly in the performing arts area," she said. "We feel we have to do something about this."
Last year, the deadly disease took the lives of ballet superstar Rudolf Nureyev at age 54, and Edward Myers, a Westminster native and director of the Nashville Ballet, who was 42. Michael Bennett, the choreographer and director who created "A Chorus Line," died of AIDS in 1987.
"I think it's real important for teen-agers to realize how rapidly AIDS is really spreading and take some action," Alison said.
Laurel agreed: "We just need to do something about it."
Dr. Leonardo Ortega, executive director of HERO, praised the teen-agers for wanting to raise money to help people with AIDS. The fatal disease, he said, has killed or infected 7,844 Marylanders, including 101 Howard County residents.
"We cannot continue to provide services without help," Dr. Ortega said. "This dance concert is an example of [the giving] I'd like to see in the community."
Both teen-agers, who have been dancing for eight to 12 years, plan to pursue ballet in college or professionally.
For today's performance, they have rehearsed eight hours a week since January. They also have learned about auditions, lighting, costuming and publicity in their quest to put a successful show together.
"It's a lot of hard work," Laurel said. "There's so much stuff to do. You feel like there's no time left."
The two girls also have met daily with their mentor and ballet teacher, Caryl Maxwell, of the Caryl Maxwell Classical Ballet in Ellicott City, to discuss progress and plans. Members of the Caryl Maxwell Classical Ballet and the Ellicott City Ballet Guild also will perform in the students' production.
Alison is scheduled to perform solos from "Sylvia," "Paquita" and "Giselle." Laurel plans to perform solos from "Giselle," "Swan Lake and "La Bayadere."
"I began [dancing], I think, because I knew people that were taking dance lessons, and I just loved it and kept doing it," Alison said. "I want to be a professional dancer."
"You really have to be dedicated," Laurel said.
After high school she plans to audition for ballet companies to become a professional dancer.