It's been a tough year for Kinetics, Howard County's modern dance company. But this weekend's performance at Mount St. Joseph High School is not a swan song. It's an anthem of survival.
Director-choreographer Priscilla Kaufhold is one of several parents of students there who were determined to keep Kinetics' school going.
And they've managed to keep the company alive, too.
For Kaufhold, it's a kind of homecoming. She danced with the company when it was founded in 1984 by Dorothy Fried, who had been a graduate student in dance at American University when Kaufhold was an undergraduate.
But that only lasted a year before Kaufhold found she couldn't make ends meet as a dancer working part time at the zoo and at a fabric store. She returned to her native Pennsylvania and got a job running the costume shop for the theater department at Millersville University.
When her husband, Jef, got a job in 1992 teaching at Glenelg Country School, the Kaufholds moved to Marriottsville.
Priscilla Kaufhold, who was earning a master's degree in dance at George Washington University while commuting to Millersville, got reinvolved with Kinetics Movement Theater.
The group was going through hard times.
Fried had developed breast cancer and cut back her activities.
Most of the Kinetics dancers -- who were also its teachers -- accepted an invitation to become the resident dance company at the Carver Center for Arts & Technology in Towson in 1997. That group became known as Surge.
The board discovered that most of what was left of Kinetics was about $30,000 in debt, including three years of unpaid payroll taxes, for which the Internal Revenue Service was assessing a penalty of $10 a day.
The group began going through directors. Anne Alex Packard came with excellent dance credentials from Connecticut College, but the labor of managing the enterprise wore her out.
Cathy Payne, a Washington dancer and teacher, ran Kinetics until this spring, but the commute got to her just as the money to pay her ran out.
Though Payne managed to keep the Kinetics name alive and fulfilled commitments to perform at Morgan State University in December and Baltimore Theater Project in April, Kinetics was actually a group of dancers from a Washington company called Cross Currents.
The board, having labored mightily to pay off the debt, also was worn out. And to top off the problems, the school had to leave the Howard County Arts Center. Many of its students did not make the transfer to its new location in an industrial strip mall off U.S. 40 in Ellicott City.
Kaufhold, whose three children -- Ainslie, 7, Claire, 5, and Curtis, 2 -- were all taking dance classes or movement activities at the school, was one of a committee of five parents who wanted to keep Kinetics going.
They organized parent volunteers to run the school, and now a three-member artistic committee runs the organization: Kaufhold the company, Misako Aoki-Oda the faculty and Cara Anderson Etris the children's dance activities.
So Kaufhold finds herself in charge of the dance company in which she started almost 15 years ago. She has cut back to half time at the costume shop.
In May, she brought her new eight-member company to an informal showing at Towson University. This weekend, she reintroduces it to the public.
The program is actually a double-header. The school will perform its spring recital, "A Dancer's Library," at 6 p.m. Saturday. The pieces are filed under headings such as "History," "Geography," "Reference," "Periodicals" and "Fiction."
Kinetics Movement Theater, the professional company, performs at 8 p.m. Saturday in a program called "Dance Weave."
The participants include four guest artists who form a tapestry of local dance: Magira Ross of Morton Street Dance Center; Dimitra Neonakis, a recent graduate of American University; Julie Peoples of Doug Hamby Dance, a faculty ensemble at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and Victoria Francese, who is bringing her group Vital Sign from UMBC.
Ross, despite a recent knee injury, is expected to perform a West African dance solo.
Neonakis' piece is a quartet called "Shake Off the Ghosts" -- a "very gymnastic dance with handstands and stuff," says Kaufhold.
Peoples' "Soft Hands, Cold Ears" is an erotic duet.
Vital Sign will perform a group piece and a solo by Francese, whose text will be "spoken" in American Sign Language.
Kinetics will perform "The Crunch," a comic work about our overscheduled lives, to the accompaniment of motivational tapes from a time management consultant; "Soundings," a seascape with segments about seals, otters and great whales; and "Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud," to a bluegrass lament by Washington singer-songwriter Wayne Jones. All are choreographed by Kaufhold.
Next fall, Kinetics will move again, but Kaufhold expects the result to be less traumatic. It's going just across the parking lot to a second-floor space now used for indoor lacrosse. Besides being much larger, the space will have 10-foot ceilings that should take care of those occasional head bumps adult dancers now suffer doing jumps. Renovation is expected to start in July.
Kinetics keeps going.
When: 6 p.m. Saturday (school recital); 8 p.m. Saturday (professional company and guests).
Where: Mount St. Joseph High School, 4403 Frederick Ave., Baltimore.
Tickets: $8, seniors/students $5.
Pub Date: 6/11/98