PUPILS AT Taneytown Elementary School sat in awe last week as members of the Chinese Folk Dance Company mimicked the moves of birds and told tales through dance.
The hourlong presentation was sponsored by the school's PTO through the Young Audiences of Maryland program, said Maggie Weicht, PTO president.
"We do about 500 shows a year," said Amy Chin, leader of the five-member dance troupe, which is based in New York City.
Before performing in Taneytown, the group had performed in Silver Spring and on the Eastern Shore.
Chin said the dancers are from China and have studied at the Chinese Cultural Center in New York City. One of the dancers, Chun Nauan Liu, had been studying dance since he was 5 years old.
Women dressed in bold red pantsuits and black cummerbunds and men in white pantsuits with an orange border opened with a Chinese folk dance. After the opening number, Chin explained cultural facts of her native country.
"You don't have to be Chinese to learn a Chinese dance," she told the pupils. "But you have to watch our hands."
Chin explained that most cultures use hands to gesture but that in China hands tell a specific story, almost like a sign language. One female dancer, wearing a white dress with gold, demonstrated a bird with elaborate hand movements. Her arms shimmied and she stretched her neck. Chin asked the children what they thought she was pretending to be. The kids easily figured out that she was pretending to be a peacock.
One of the male dancers performed a quick-paced dance with a sword.
At one point Chin invited several pupils to join the dancers in a dance that involved long strips of red cloth. The children demonstrated a rocket by throwing the strip of cloth into the air and moving their hands downward in a spiral movement.
"That was really cool," said Nathan Goodman, 9, one of the pupils who went on stage. "I had never seen anything like this."
One girl had the same reaction. "I really liked it [the performance]," said Stevie Mullen, 10, who also participated in a dance. "I really liked to watch the sword dances."
Chin said one of the troupe's goals is to educate the pupils about another culture.
"A lot of times kids will make fun of something they don't understand," she said. "We try to expose the kids to something they don't understand."
The Chinese Folk Dance Company consists of professional dancers and musicians who bring to life the "ancient classical and indigenous folk cultures of China, traveling through varied terrains of time and region, legend and reality," according to information about the company.
The company was founded in 1973 and is based in Manhattan at the New York Chinese Cultural Center. Other members of the dance group are Xiaoling Yang, Min Zhou and Ping Wang.
Dance is back
Eighth-graders at New Windsor Middle School got into the swing of things last week with an afternoon dance with swing dance specialist John McCalla and his dance partner, Heather Coyle.
This was the second year McCalla and his partner demonstrated the steps of swing dance. The dance traces its roots to Harlem in the 1920s. The dance was called the Lindy Hop then, after aviator Charles Lindbergh.
"Last year, the students were a bit skeptical," McCalla said. "But this year, they really got into it."
Jack Crawmer, physical education instructor who initiated the idea, said he noticed the same thing.
"They had heard about it from last year's eighth-graders," he said.
Two pupils, Kyle Phillips and Brittney Bowie, both 14, said they enjoyed learning the dance.
"I really love the moves and the clothes," Brittney said.
Added Kyle, "I think I'm doing pretty good. I even have new shoes."
Friends of Boy Scout Troop 582 will hold basket bingo at 7 p.m. April 27 at New Windsor Middle School. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
Information: Laura Becraft, 410-751-2734.
Easter egg hunt
An Easter egg hunt and other children's activities will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 14 at Roberts Mill Park in Taneytown.
The Francis Scott Key High School Athletic Boosters will hold its second Birdies4Eagles Golf Tournament at 2 p.m. April 28 at The Links in Gettysburg, Pa. Cost is $100.
Information: Debbie Frazier, 410-756-2278.
Jean Marie Beall's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.