AACC's lively steps

The Baltimore Sun

On Friday and Saturday at Pascal Center for Performing Arts, the talents of the AACC Dance Company were displayed in an entertaining program. "Forces of Nature" showcased students who proved fluent in many dance languages, from classical ballet to modern.

The program was an exciting dance circus, with something for everyone. In a single number, dancers moved from an exuberant Charleston to shag to classic swing to hip-hop without missing a beat.

Freshness was another hallmark of this program, which began and ended with works choreographed by dance company director Lynda Fitzgerald. She decided to bring back the favorites because May will mark the 20th anniversary of the company.

"Falling for You," a hilarious opener danced to the music of Bizet and Verdi, spoofed the idea of losing balance. It showcased the whole troupe, whose members happily bounded about the stage, fearlessly leaping into the arms of partners who feigned an inability to execute classic lifts, stumbling and falling or clutching the ballerinas awkwardly.

"Perspectives" dealt with how people view dance, with the help of the main curtain, which was initially lowered to reveal only the dancers' feet.

In addition to Fitzgerald's dances, there were seven student-choreographed works illustrating contemporary, modern, tap and jazz styles. In this reunion year, Fitzgerald also invited two alums, Lance Guillermo and Jamile McGee, to be guest choreographers.

Fitzgerald noted the two "have each gone on to impressive careers in dance, everything from TV to movies and music videos, with Jamile finishing third in the first season of So You Think You Can Dance. They combined their talents to create the fabulous "Redefinition: Version 2.0," where swing met hip-hop.

In "Abnegate (A Reflection of You)," dance student Leonard Williams created a soulful work that seemed to express reluctantly letting go of illusions. The piece beautifully fit the music of Damien Rice, and was sensitively conveyed by a dozen skilled dancers.

Next on the program was "Shadow Me," choreographed by Shalyce Hemby and Anwar Thomas. This was a more traditional piece danced to the familiar tune "Me and My Shadow." Nine dancers perfectly reflected each others' moves.

A fun number was "AACC Does MTV." Choreographer Thomas provided a dead-on impersonation of Beyonce, complete with blonde wig and rhinestone spike heels. Thomas had some fabulous, aspiring, albeit somewhat-confused admirers, including Sam Boquist, Andre Hinds and Williams - all superb dancers.

Nearly half the dancers in the company are male, and they seem capable of becoming professional dancers on local stages or on Broadway.

Also skilled is petite blonde Leah Smearman, whose dancing reflects strong classical training along with versatility. She displayed imaginative choreographic skill in "Padded Dreams," set in a mental hospital.

Four female dancers were well showcased by Christina Manthos in "Infected." Her joyous, angular piece was powerfully danced by Andrea Abdul-Haqq, Brittany Brainer, Manthos and Kelsey Strawbridge.

The AACC Dance Company presents two concerts a year, and will return to Pascal Center on May 8 and 9 to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

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