When the music begins, Amy Brown dances and her symphonic motions gofar beyond what one would normally expect of a 9-year-old dancer.
Apparently it's that certain inner-something Amy describes as "spirit" that motivates her to spend four nights a week taking dance lessons instead of playing with her friends.
In only four years of dancing she has won 95 trophies during regional, national and international competitions.
"It's work but it'sstill fun," says the fourth-grader, originally from Mount Airy, who now lives in Ellicott City and attends Waverly Elementary School.
Whether its her modern dance interpretation of a black widow spider or her portrayal of a feline from the Broadway musical "Cats," Amy seems to put everything she's got into her dancing.
Amy's interest inmovement began at age 3 with an inclination to do splits. She signedup for gymnastic classes, and later dance classes with the Carroll County Recreation Council. When her parents, Timothy and Denise Brown,enrolled her in lessons in 1987 with Gabrielle Dymerski, owner of Tah Dah Dance Studio in Mount Airy, they didn't realize her potential.
"I didn't know she was as good as she was," said Denise Brown. "And then Gabrielle said, 'This could be something here.' "
Nine months later, Amy placed second during her first competition, a regional event in Alexandria, Va.
Since then, Amy has leaped onto the circuit of dance competitions, so far earning $2,000 in addition to her wall full of trophies.
She was even offered a job with Jam Kids, a professional dance troupe in Maryland, but she chose to continue her amateur status in order to compete.
Amy's dance interpretations maylook effortless, but much goes into the routines.
So Amy can comprehend various musical compositions at her age level, Dymerski explains each piece.
In preparation for a routine choreographed to Barbra Streisand's "Papa, Can You Hear Me" -- a song about a girl's need for her deceased father -- Dymerski and Amy's mother discussed the lyrics with the young dancer.
"There was a special connection betweenAmy and her great-grandfather before he died, and we talked about it," said Denise Brown.
Amy said she kept two special people in mindwhen performing the piece in July at the Star Systems National DanceCompetition in Nashville, Tenn.
"I thought of my own father . . .I also thought of Pap-Pap in heaven," Amy said.
During the contest, she competed against 13 other regional superstar champions from the United States in the 12-and-under
event. Her lyrical jazz rendition of the song earned her the National Superstar title as well as first place for individual performances in the categories of solo lyrical jazz, ballet and production; she placed second and third in the highest scores of the 12 and under category out of 1,200 dancers.
A trophy case built by Amy's father accents a wall in her basement-studio and is lined from top to bottom with other trophies, including Miss Petite Dance of Maryland, and nine gold medals from the U.S. Tournament of Dance Inc./Performing Arts Championships in Cherry Hill, N.J., -- a competition recognized by the National Dance Council of America, Inc.
She also was first runner-up, losing by .3 of a point to a13-year-old dancer, in the International Princess of Dance competition, sponsored by the U.S. Tournament of Dance Inc.
The basement-studio is a perfect spot for Amy to practice. Her father, co-owner and vice president of a sheet metal and roofing company in Hyattsville, installed a mirrored wall, barre and "floating" wood floor that cushions Amy's feet from impact on the concrete floor beneath.
Upstairs in Amy's bedroom, other pleasures of being 9 years old abound. A picture of her sister, Megan, 6, a first-grader at Waverly Elementary school, sits among Amy's favorite things, which include stuffed animals,dolls and books.
Amy says she especially likes to write poetry, however, it's a future in dance that she wants.
"I want to be either a professional dancer or I want to teach dancing," she said.
In a short, videotaped speech that she delivered when she relinquished her title of Miss Petite Dance of Maryland 1990, she included a thought from a book about famous choreographers -- it was something her body had been "saying" all along.
"Dance is a poem in which each movement is a word," she said simply. ". . . (Through dance) I can present to you my heart and spirit."