A quick stop in Columbia on the road to stardom

A quick stop in Columbia on the road to stardom
Former Balet Royale member Ashley Balir Fitzgerald taught a local master class in dance this summer, and comes through the region next in the national tour of "Catch Me If You Can." (Laura Marie Duncan, Laura Marie Duncan)

Summer is a good time to catch professional dancers with Howard County roots on hometown visits between gigs. Some are now dancing professionally in other parts of the country, and others are gearing up for big fall tours.

Ashley Blair Fitzgerald is one of the latter. A few weeks back she taught a master dance class at Lori Pryor's Dance Foundations on Route 108, in Columbia. This leggy Ann Reinking-look-alike first caught our attention as a teen performing in classical ballet variations with her sister Amanda at Ballet Royale.


This time through, Fitzgerald demonstrated some flashy show-dance moves to local teens, all of whom seem to have come away smitten by her technical prowess. She's back in New York City now, getting ready to hit the road with the national tour of the Broadway hit, "Catch Me If You Can," which will stop in both Baltimore and Washington this season.

We caught up with Debra Buonaccorsi at a ballet class taught by Debbie Braun at the Howard County Center for the Arts, in-between her performances in the shows "Seussical — The Musical" and "Anything Goes" at Toby's Dinner Theatre. She managed to squeeze in a couple of serious sessions at the Howard County Ballet studio with her sister, ballerina Maria Rodgers and her niece, Emily Rodgers, a college dance major at Pointe Park.

Next up for the talented Buonaccorsi will be the coveted role of Velma Kelly in the revival of Bob Fosse's "Chicago," at Toby's Dinner Theatre. She's a sure bet to knock 'em dead in Columbia with her sky-high kicks and her own brand of razzledazzle.

Howard County Ballet wunderkind Leiland Charles spent his summer teaching classes at his alma mater. Tall, lanky, and with legs so strong he seems jet-propelled, the Columbia native shared his expertise with little ones and senior dancers in the Saturday morning classes there.

Charles returns now to the prestigious Juilliard Institute for his sophomore year, where he will be working alongside California-based choreographer Alex Ketley, another visiting dance artist who just happens to hail from Columbia.

Earlier this summer, Dance Dimensions held a reunion in Howard County at which dozens of dancers gathered to celebrate a quarter century of the award-winning teen dance troupe under the direction of Marilyn Byers. One former member on hand for the celebrations was Kelly Klein, who went on to earn her degree in dance at Wesleyan College in Connecticut.

Klein's last local piece, "Trash," was a big hit at the Columbia Lakefront festival last summer. She continues pursuing her dance visions with her own company, Poor Richard Dance, based in Colorado. She will be performing in two new works at the Boulder International Fringe Festival this month. You can see video clips of her works such as "Project Lightbulb" and "Downstream" at

Ballet West boasts Kate Crews, a beautiful dancer who began her training locally with Caryl Maxwell at the Ellicott City Ballet Guild. She was last seen in our area at the Celebration of the Arts opening at the Jim Rouse Theatre in 2002.

A few years ago, this tall, lithe beauty graced the cover of Dance Magazine, and was a soloist with Ballet West at the Kennedy Center. She was scheduled to perform again with that hot, Utah-based company when it appeared at Wolf Trap's Filene Center Aug. 23. No word on whether Kate will accept an offer to teach a master class while she is in the area.

Signing up for fall

This is also the time of year when people often ask what local dance programs I would recommend for fall. My advise is this: Be sure to check out the scene first before enrolling you or your darlings in a serious dance program. Usually a dance teacher will offer a free session so prospective students can get a feel for the joys and benefits of that particular class.

Kinetics Dance Theatre is presenting part two of its annual Open House celebrations on Thursday evening, Sept. 1. Visitors can sample free classes, observe an open rehearsal of the Kinetics Professional Company, or consult with teachers and shop for dance gear. Kids are welcome to dress-up in ballerina tutus, and refreshments will be served.

Kinetics classes include modern dance, ballet, jazz, tap, musical theater, creative movement and speciality programs inPilates, yoga and zumba. There are also morning preschool "Movement and Music" programs, and special classes in Dalcroze and Eurhythmics, a European method of translating music to movement.

L'Etoile, the Russian Ballet Academy of Maryland, will host its own open house at the Ellicott City studio on Corporate Drive, off Route 40, Saturday, Aug. 27 at 10 a.m. Here's a chance to observe and discuss classical Russian ballet techniques as taught by directors Svetlana Kravtsova and Vadim Pijicov and a roster of guest artists. Call 443-851-1650 for more information.