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Baltimore County to host dance celebration

Baltimore County has some serious moves, and this month, they'll be on full display.

The Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences is partnering with the Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills for the second consecutive year to host the Take a Leap Baltimore County Dance Celebration from Feb. 5 to March 8.

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"[The celebration is] an idea that actually was brought to us by the members of the dance community," said Fronda Cohen, director of the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences. "Some of the dance companies who are here locally, dance educators from Towson University, Baltimore County Public Schools, floated the idea as something that could really showcase the scope and scale and the diversity of dance right here in Baltimore County."

The monthlong celebration offers people the chance to take advantage of a wide range of dance performances, classes, exhibits and more throughout Baltimore County.

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"I think people can expect some wonderful opportunities to see performances on the stage and, equally important, opportunities where perhaps somebody has always thought about trying dance or taking dance … but needed a little nudge to do it, so we've put together a lot of classes and demonstrations for all ages," Cohen said. "No experience necessary. So it's really a chance to have great experiences for families, particularly young people. I think people can expect diversity in all its forms. We've got hip-hop, we've got jazz, we've got swing, we've got modern dance, tap dancing … so we came up with the 'Take a Leap' name really to take a leap, to try something new."

As part of the event, several dance companies both from and outside of Baltimore County will be offering performances to the public. Such performances will include, among others, a mix of interactive media and modern dance by Baltimore Dance Project, contemporary dance set to works by international composers by Koresh Dance Company from Philadelphia, and a presentation of a range of unique global dances by Dance Baltimore.

Randi Benesch, managing director of arts and culture for the Gordon Center for Performing Arts, said the month offers a chance to highlight the dance scene in the county.

"We think it's important to shine a bright spotlight on dance for an entire month to show the community all of the great dance that we have happening in this county throughout the year and also to bring in national dance companies to really expose the community to how great dance can be," she said.

New to the month of dance this year is Leap Into Dance Day on Feb. 8, a day of free dance classes held at various studios throughout the county. Many of those classes will be hosted by Towson University Community Dance, an arm of the dance department at the university that offers dance classes to non-collegiate students throughout the year.

Candice Webster, director of Towson University Community Dance, said that, in addition to offering classes, Community Dance will have another part in the monthlong celebration. Community Dance students will be performing with Koresh Dance Company and will open their show at the Gordon Center.

One unique portion of the monthlong celebration is the involvement of professional dance companies, not just for performances, but for instruction, as well.

"What's really wonderful about that is these professional dance companies are coming in and really offering their expertise for the dance community," Webster said.

One such professional group is Koresh Dance Company, which will be offering master classes in middle and high schools throughout the county.

"[Koresh] will be going to, I believe, seven different schools, middle and high school, and offering master classes," Webster said. "[A master class] is when you have a professional dance company or professional come in and really give their style of technique for that company to students, so they have an opportunity to work outside just the regular class schedule with the teachers that they have but they have the opportunity to work with a professional currently in the field."

Another unique element of the celebration is "Dance International," a free art exhibit by the Towson Arts Collective that is being shown at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts from Feb. 6 to March 15.

"We'll also be hosting an art exhibition in partnership with the Towson Arts Collective," said Benesch. "So well have a whole art gallery on display of dance and we did a whole call for artists for that so that's really exciting."

Organizers of the event say they hope people will use it as an opportunity to do just that — try something new.

"I would say if you want to come and take a dance class, it's a great way to get exercise, a fun way, and [a way] to try something new," Webster said. "It's always great to come outside of your box and find something that moves you."

And if trying your hand at various styles of dance doesn't suit your fancy, Webster said there's always the option of sitting back and watching the professionals in action.

"If you're too hesitant to come to a dance class, come and see what it'd be like to be an audience member and see what that offers you," she said.

Whether you attend performances or take time to learn some new dance moves, Benesch said, the month offers activities of which everyone can take advantage.

"I think there's something for everyone," she said. "Dance is an exciting and beautiful art form and we encourage [people] to take a leap with us and try something new."

Reach Times Staff Reporter Elaina Clarke at elaina.clarke@communitytimes.com or 410-857-3316.

For more information:

To learn more, visit http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/releases/0115dance.html.

For a schedule and list of performances and classes, visit the website of the Gordon Performing Arts Center, the arts department of the Jewish Community Center, at http://www.jcc.org/gordon-center/baltimore-county-s-dance-celebration/.

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