A Choreography Of Annapolis Brings City's History To Utah Stage

August 12, 1991|By Donna Weaver | Donna Weaver,Staff writer

Translating the history of Annapolis into dance was a daunting task for Ann Brown.

By her own admission, the Arnold dance teacher was nervous about creating a program for children that tells the city's early history.

"At first I said, 'I can't do this,' " Brown, 38, recalled. "I had a vision of how the dance would flow. But I didn't know the historyof Annapolis."

But Brown didn't just turn the city's rich past into a 45-minute dance program. She took it on the road.

She and 22 members of her Chesapeake Dance Theatre Inc. traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, July 29 to Aug. 3, to perform at the fourth Dance and the Child International Conference, which promotes dance for children.

The group was invited to perform at the event on the basis of a videotape Brown sent in 1989. Brown's group was one of about 40 dance companies that performed at the conference.

Fourteen of them came fromoutside the United States, including the Beijing Dancing Institute Xia-Men Youth Folk Dance Ensemble and the Young Dance on the Riversides, from Finland.

Looking at these exotic names in a conference brochure, Brown couldn't believe her group was among them.

"I didn't think we would be selected because there are many good, established dance companies around the country," said Brown, Chesapeake's artisticdirector.

"And my company is so young, only 5 1/2 years old."

Organizers notified her last year of the company's selection. She washonored but worried that she wouldn't be able to pull it off.

"I cried in July and August," she said.

But she also got down to work. A Salt Lake City native, Brown wasn't well-versed in local history.

She spent days talking to history experts at the Historical Annapolis Foundation. She wanted to know everything, down to the music andflowers.

Brown found most of the music from David and Ginger Hildebrand's recording of 18th-century Annapolitan music.

After digging for the information, it was time for Brown to write the script. Sheenvisioned a series of vignettes on the lives of children between the 1600s and 1700s.

"It was not really a history," she said. "It imparted more of a feeling of what children were like then."

The vignettes included children dancing the minuet and a little boy traveling alone on a large ship to Annapolis.

Brown said she didn't createevery dance move. She left most of that work to her dancers, who range in age from 5 to 12 years old. All of them, including four of her children, are students in her dance school.

"I'm not interested injust teaching them steps," she said. "I'm more interested in the creative process. They should learn the techniques, but they should alsolearn how to be spontaneous. They should learn how to create moves themselves."

But Brown guided them. For one vignette, she taught them seven moves and told them to pick three. Some of the moves involved pulling their arms close to their bodies and clapping their hands.

"They could change the timing, the level and the direction," she said. "But they couldn't invent anything new."

They practiced once a week for a year, learning and creating as they went along. To warm up, they performed the dance program July 18 at the Pascal Theatre for the Performing Arts at Anne Arundel Community College. Then they were off to Utah.

"This was a great experience for me and for them,"Brown said. "It was a good learning experience."

Brown's husband,Randy, recalled the drama surrounding the performance by the Beijingcompany. The company arrived late because several members couldn't get exit visas.

"After they performed, there were wet eyes on both sides," said Randy, Chesapeake's executive director. "There was a lotof empathy from Americans, who know what freedom is."

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