Ballet dancer does a good turn for his teacher ABT performer holds master class

February 15, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

Ellicott City may not be New York City or London -- places where ballet dancer Peter Lentz is used to appearing on stage -- but it's where the American Ballet Theatre dancer had time yesterday to provide tips to some aspiring dancers.

Yesterday afternoon at the Kinetics Dance Theatre on High Ridge Road, the 25-year-old dancer instructed 15 young girls and women in a $15 master ballet class on how to position their heads, arms and legs. He stressed balance and movement. "You're never just standing; you're always producing an energy," he said, clad in a white ABT T-shirt, black tights and a San Francisco Ballet sweater wrapped around his waist.

School director Donna Harrington-Payne, who taught Mr. Lentz at the Baltimore Ballet School in the 1980s, invited him to the school.

"Teaching a class for one of your teachers is . . . an honor," said Mr. Lentz, a native of Baltimore.

"When they see a student who has really made it," said Ms. Harrington-Payne, 33, "it gives them hope."

The students' arms and legs moved to the beat of piano music during the two-hour class, as wall mirrors captured their moves.

"It's a circle," Mr. Lentz told one dancer at the barre, outlining her raised arm and behind-the-back leg.

Mr. Lentz said he wanted to teach the dancers how to incorporate modern dance and movement into ballet, instead of just striving for the perfect position. "It's not about the perfect positioning of the feet, but of kinetic energy," he said.

In class, he walked around snapping his fingers, praising dancers and giving them tips from his successful career.

Mr. Lentz is in his second season with the ABT in New York, one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world. He will be performing in Anthony Tudor's "Undertow" at the Kennedy Center soon.

"He's a beautiful dancer. He's extremely gifted as a classical ballet dancer, and a jazz dancer," Ms. Harrington-Payne said. "He's worked extremely hard, and that's exactly what it takes." Mr. Lentz has danced solos with the San Francisco, Cincinnati and Washington ballet companies, performing the Nutcracker with the latter.

Because he was a hyperactive child, Mr. Lentz said, he wanted to dance. He first studied modern dance, then, at about age 10, studied classical ballet with Ms. Harrington-Payne and Wendy Robinson at the Baltimore Ballet School. He also studied abroad at the Royal Ballet School in London.

"You know you're doing something right when you get some stu

dents into wonderful places," said Ms. Harrington-Payne, who also attended the Royal Ballet School.

She said there is a myth that dancers can't make it here. "Most students believe they have to go to a major city. Kinetics trains dancers to become professional dancers. They don't have to travel miles and miles," she said.

In September 1991, Ms. Harrington-Payne took over the school, which has a budget of more than $250,000 budget and encourages dance appreciation.

Howard County is full of modern dance enthusiasts, but once people realize the beauty of classical ballet, ballet will also grow in the county, she said. "I think the more people see [ballet], the more it can be appreciated," she added.

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