Sunday, May 14, 2000

Troupes mix pros, youngsters

Elaborate shows go beyond recitals

By Carol Norris
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Claudia Rudolf Barrett says it inspires her students. Anita Lilly says it's because no one is ever forced to leave her group. We're talking about two very different dance groups that make it a habit of presenting young, budding performers alongside experienced professionals. With elaborate costumes, live music and the inclusion of seasoned dancers, these performances go beyond the annual dance recital format.

        First up is the Afrikan-American Drum & Dance Ensemble at Woodward High School Saturday in Sere (an African word for generations). The show features live drumming and dancing with roots in West Africa. Ms. Lilly and Lateefah Kituku have kept this 25-member group busy for 15 years, and they're ready to celebrate.

        “We're inviting back all of our original members, students and supporters to come to this performance,” Ms. Lilly says. “Our focus is on our youth — we start as young as 3 — but we don't kick anybody out, so there are moms in the group, too.”

        They may be moms, but they are also experts in the West African dances of Senegal and Gambia.

        This busy group recently performed at the ceremony for the refurbished Genius of Water on Fountain Square.

        “We've danced at the zoo, Children's Hospital, Miami University and too many schools and churches to count,” Ms. Lilly says.

        The dancers are still buzzing about their March 30 performance on the Jenny Jones show. (“It was one of her more positive programs,” Ms. Lilly says.)

        They happened to be performing at Kenwood Towne Centre when a Jenny Jones producer saw them. The scout was looking for groups to appear on Ms. Jones' “My Kid Can Rock” specials. The dancers were flown to Chicago for the show — one of 13 groups — and lavished with special attention.

        Saturday's free concert: 7 p.m., Woodward High School auditorium, 7001 Reading Road, Bond Hill. 281-7909 or 641-4955.

        The second is Ms. Barrett's group, Ballet Tech. This group has made a habit of featuring Cincinnati Ballet principals Anna Reznik and Alexei Kremnev in its performances for the past three years.

        Ms. Barrett is responsible for bringing the Russian couple to the attention of Cincinnati Ballet director Victoria Morgan, so the couple feels a connection to Ms. Barrett and her young dancers. They often teach in off-seasons at Ballet Tech studios in Foster, near Paramount's Kings Island.

        Next Sunday's program will allow the Russians to show off their technical wizardry in the Don Quixote pas de deux. They're also slated to dance a contemporary duet to the music of Scriabin in addition to providing all the choreography for the first half of the program.

        Other Cincinnati Ballet dancers on the program are Dawn Kelly, Andre Kasatsky and Greg Saulnier. The varied program includes the band Brittany Bay providing Celtic music for Ms. Barrett's new work, “A Stone's Throw” (husband Ian has written about half the music) and “Child's Play,” a new work by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company's Terence Green.

        Ballet Tech in Crossroads of the Dance: 7 p.m. next Sunday, Taft Theatre, Fifth and Sycamore street, downtown, tickets $15, $10 students through Ticketmaster or at the Taft. 562-4949.

        Tapping away: The highlight will be the largest group of dancers ever to assemble in Cincinnati doing the “Tea for Two” and the “Shim Sham.” The event is the annual “Tap Dance Day” celebration.

        “I knew there was a reason I kept teaching these steps to everybody over the years,” event organizer Gloria Esenwein says.

        Onstage at Contemporary Dance Theater's College Hill Town Hall will be the senior contingency: High Stepping Grandmas, Heartline Dancers, Granmotion and the Evanston and Eastside Tappers. The grams will be joined by younger types from Academy of Dance, Winton Place Dancers, Tanze and students of Dee Ann Bryll and Ms. Esenwein.

        Offstage there will be refreshments for the weary. As usual, bring your tap shoes because everybody will be invited to join the warm-up and tap challenge.

        National Tap Dance Day Celebration, 7 p.m. Saturday, Contemporary Dance Theater, College Hill Town Hall, 1805 Larch Ave.; $3 at the door. 541-7443.

        Carol Norris is Enquirer dance critic. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati OH 45202; fax, 768-8330.


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