Hua Sha Chinese Dance Cente

Information: Xiao Fang Xu, director, 410-381-0270 or

For a sample of Asian culture, go no further than the Hua Sha Chinese Dance Center.

Based in Columbia, the center includes a dance school and a performing arts troupe.

Hua Sha, which means Chinese, was founded in 1996 by Xiao Fang Xu, the center's director and choreographer who has danced for 40 years.

"Our mission is to preserve and promote Chinese performing arts and culture, and introduce Chinese culture to [a] new community," said Xu, a two-time winner of an individual artist award from the Maryland State Arts Council. "We want to be a cultural bridge connecting the Eastern and Western cultures."

Born in Shanghai, Xu trained at the Shanghai Dance School in China, specializing in ballet, Chinese classical and folk dance. She danced in 15 countries for the Arts Delegation of China and was one of the dancers who welcomed President Richard M. Nixon during his first state visit to China. In 1985, Xu attended Ohio State University as a visiting scholar and taught at Brigham Young University, then settled in Columbia in 1993.

The touring company has performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, Walters Art Gallery and Artscape in Baltimore, the Dance Festival sponsored by the Maryland Council for the Arts, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, the Columbia Festival of the Arts and at Asian Pacific festivals.

Hua Sha will present its annual performance at 7:30 p.m. May 17 at the Jim Rouse Theatre. The show will feature 10 styles of Chinese dance. "Some are new, some are repeated from past years," Xu said. "But even when I repeat them I change them because the performers change every year."

The program includes the performing arts troupe's 15 to 20 dancers, who will present the traditional Chinese fan dance, ribbon dance, Mongolian dance, Tibet dance, sword dance and the Dun Huang dance, a classical sculpture dance from the Tang Dynasty. Ten students, ages 7 to 9, also will perform a Mongolian dance.

Tickets are $18 general admission and $15 each for seniors and groups of 10 or more.

Eva Anderson Dancers LTD

Howard County Center for the Arts, 8510 High Ridge Road, Ellicott City. Information: 410-997-3899.

Eva Anderson Dancers LTD is a regional company that has performed throughout the state, nationally and internationally.

The company incorporates classical modern, classical ballet and classical African-American dance in its works.

"The company's mission is to create and perpetuate dance with special emphasis on African-American dance form," said Eva Anderson, director.

The company has received numerous awards for excellence from many organizations, including the Maryland State Arts Council, Abell Foundation and Bell Atlantic Foundation.

Founded 30 years ago as the Baltimore Dance Theater under the auspices of a neighborhood parents club, it was an after-school program for inner-city youth at Dunbar High School in Baltimore.

After the company incorporated as a nonprofit in 1980, Anderson became director. In residence at the Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City, the company established a yearly season of six to eight concerts that are performed at the Baltimore Museum of Art and Jim Rouse Theatre.

The repertoire includes choreography by Anderson and dance artists Rod Rogers, Eleo Pamare, Elizabeth Keen and Yuli Vazouif. The company also performs commissioned works by renowned composers.

The group has toured in Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Germany, Australia and Italy.

Eva Anderson Dancers LTD recently performed its annual spring concert at the Jim Rouse Theatre. It will celebrate the beginning of its 30th season at 8 p.m. Oct. 25 and at 4 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Tickets are $15. Group discounts are available.

Howard County Ballet

3240 Corporate Court, Suite E, Ellicott City. Information: 410-465-8233 or

Pushing the limits is part of the rigor of the Howard County Ballet, with dancers performing the company's annual winter concert to live music, strapping on harnesses to simulate flying in Never-Never Land and striving to be their scariest for Halloween productions.

Established in 1995, the Howard County Ballet is a nonprofit organization that includes guest artists and student performers.

The company conducts open auditions for dancers in the Baltimore-Washington area. Based at Aesthetics dance studio, the ballet performs two winter and spring productions each year.

Cinderella will be performed at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. May 31 and at 2:30 p.m. June 1 at the Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts in Columbia. The program will feature about 30 student performers ages 3 to adult. Tickets are $18 and $13 for seniors and students

"We're really having great fun with this," said Kathi Ferguson, founder and artistic director. "It's lively and entertaining, and we have wonderful dancers doing the parts."

The Nutcracker is usually presented the weekend before Christmas at the Jim Rouse Theatre. Since 1998, the company has performed with its own orchestra. Led by musical director David Zajic, the Howard County Ballet Orchestra is a community organization formed to support the dance company.

The company also has added "Scary Scenes" to its fall roster for the past two years.

Performed at the black box theatre at the Howard County Arts Center in Ellicott City, "Scary Scenes" is a culmination of the organization's summer dance program. The audience is invited to attend in costume for the costume parade in which prizes are given.

"It's a great way for the kids to celebrate Halloween and have fun with the performers," Ferguson said. Tickets for "The Scary Scenes" are $7 and $5 for children.

Dance Dimension

Slayton House, Wilde Lake Village Green, Columbia. Information: 410-730-3987 or 301-490-0252.

Dance Dimension is the resident dance company of Slayton House in Columbia.

Founded by award-winning dance educator Marilyn Byers in 1982, the school is an outgrowth of the Howard County Gifted and Talented Dance Program she designed to "meet the needs of the youth."

Dance Dimension's school of modern dance includes a minicompany, apprentice group and a performance company.

The minicompany offers elementary school-age children the fundamentals in dance technique based on a "scientific approach to motion" and creative techniques.

The apprentice group is for middle school pupils and the performance company is geared for high school and college students.

Two years ago, Byers premiered FreeFall, a professional dance company of Dance Dimension alumni, local professionals and national dance luminaries.

FreeFall has performed at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.

The company also has been invited to perform at a professional dance festival in France in the fall.

Byers, who is also artistic director of the Johns Hopkins Dance Company, was awarded a Kennedy Center Medal for Excellence in the Arts and Education in 1987.

In 1993, Gov. William Donald Schaefer designated Dance Dimension as cultural ambassador for the state.

Dance Dimension presents two annual community performances in Howard County and performs at elementary schools in the Baltimore-Washington area.

For its spring production, Dance Dimension will perform at 8 p.m. May 2 at Slayton House. The program will feature professional works and pieces for youngsters. Tickets are $15 and $8 for students.

Works include "Things That Go Bump in the Night" -- the unknowns that people fear in the dark -- which will be danced by all groups; "Crazy Eights," a piece based on the shape of figure eights with jazz-flavored music; "Morning Glory," which combines ballet and modern dance techniques; and the premiere of a new, unnamed athletic piece combining African and Celtic rhythms.

Columbia Chamber Ballet

Cindy Velle Dance School, Long Reach Village Center, Columbia. Information: 410-465-7674.

The Columbia Chamber Ballet is a group on the go. The company takes its performance to where the people are -- malls, museums and senior centers in Howard County.

"It's getting kids out into the community," said Cindy Velle, founder and director. "It's a good experience for the school and offers free performances for the community who might not otherwise come to a ballet. We bring the ballet to them."

The award-winning performance company consists of about a dozen middle and high school students from the ballet with Cindy Velle Dance School at Long Reach Village Center in Columbia.

The 20-year-old school has about 200 students ages 3 to adult and offers classes in ballet, jazz and tap.

"The chamber ballet is for students looking for an opportunity to perform," Velle said.

The ballet company performs about eight to 10 performances on three weekends in December of excerpts of Nutcracker in a 45-minute traveling production. "We bring the sound system and dance floor that we roll down," Velle said. "You have to really adapt to the space we're given."

Each spring, the company competes in dance competitions in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Over the years, the group has amassed at least 60 trophies.

Contests include the Starquest Competition from May 9 to 11 in Brooklyn Park and the Starpower Nationals in July at Ocean City.

The school will celebrate its 20th anniversary at 7:30 p.m. June 13 and at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. June 14 at Smith Theatre at Howard Community College in Columbia.

Tickets are $12 for orchestra seating ; $11 for mezzanine; and $5 for seniors and students.

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