One doesn't normally think of Salt Lake City as a major cultural center, but it looms large in the world of children's dance.
"There's a very rich tradition there," says Ann Brown, artistic director of the Chesapeake Dance Theater of Anne Arundel County. "And it remains strong."
Salt Lake City figures prominently in Brown's past and future. A native of that city, Brown discovered the joy of dance at a very young age. Her aunt, Virginia Tanner, was an originator of the modern dance art form that teaches movement by drawing forth the choreographic creativity of each individual child.
And next summer, Brown will be taking 27 of her local students to participate in the prestigious "Dance and the Child International Conference" scheduled in Salt Lake City from July 29 through Aug. 3. Her dancers range in age from 5 to 17.
The international festival is sponsored by UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations. At the last such gathering Brown attended in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, children from more than 50 countries flocked to the Canadian Rockies to perform, learn and share their love of dance.
"This is a major festival, to say the least." Brown says. "We are very, very happy to be going.
"This will help the Chesapeake Dance Theater from the ground up," she says proudly. "The trip to Salt Lake City is bringing out enthusiasm from the kids, support from their parents and an enhancement of everyone's creativity."
"This is such a wonderful opportunity for my daughter, Suzanne," says Doris Williams of Riva. "It will build her confidence, encourage her to meet new people, as well as provide an opportunity to learn new dance techniques."
Suzanne, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Central Middle School, is already excited about going. "I feel kind of special," she said, "because Mrs. Brown picked me. Dancing makes me feel really good about myself, especially when I'm able to do it for lots of people."
And large audiences the CDT will assuredly draw at the Salt Lake City Festival.
To decide how to entertain those audiences, Brown submitted three proposals to the festival committee, which selected a choreographic history of Annapolis as the piece to be performed.
As the choice was made, her creativity went to work and she now envisions a time-traveling tour guide motif as the clock winds back to Indian tribes, British settlers, Kunta Kinte's arrival, an 18th-century minuet, and many other depictions of this city's rich history. "One of the positive things that's come of this," Brown said, "is that I've had to bone up on my Maryland history."
Many creative ideas will originate from the children themselves as is always the case in Chesapeake Dance Theater productions. And the kids should have plenty of insights to contribute when the audience begins asking them questions about their own choreography, which often happens at the festival. "The children must always be part of the creative process," says Brown firmly. "That's the name of the game."
As her students prepare their dances and write in the journals she's asked them to keep. Brown acknowledges the gratifying nature of support like that received from Anne Arundel Community College, which has been particularly generous in allowing the use of the Pascal Center. "It's wonderful to feel that support," says Brown. "People can really be brought together through the arts."