Area dancers hope to get children up and on their feet

August 10, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

A small troupe of area dancers will step into six public schools this fall and introduce elementary and middle school students to contemporary dance and improvisational routines.

At the same time, they're hoping to cultivate future audiences and jobs for those who want to dance and be paid for it.

The PHOENIX Repertory Dance Company at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the Macht Foundation are partners in Project REACH (Reaping Enrichment in the Arts for Children). The pilot program will acquaint students in two Baltimore City and four Baltimore County schools with modern dance and let them try their feet at it.

The program, also supported by the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences, was announced at UMBC this month during a performance similar to those school children will see. The company's first audience included dozens of youngsters from UMBC's day camp, university officials and principals from the participating schools.

Project REACH will begin officially in September at Beechfield Elementary and West Baltimore Middle schools in the city and at Arbutus and Johnnycake elementary and middle schools in the county. The schools were picked because they are close to UMBC.

Members of the repertory company in residence at the university will spend two days at each school, performing and instructing.

"Hundreds of school children in elementary and middle school will have the opportunity to see a live performance," said Carol Hess, artistic director of the repertory company and the person in charge of Project REACH. "We are tailoring the two-day residency to each school."

About 50 students from the schools also will attend a free 10-week Saturday workshop at UMBC in the spring.

"We're not going to pick out the most promising [dancers], but the children who have the strongest desire, and who would not otherwise have this opportunity," Ms. Hess said.

In addition to acquainting children with modern dance, Project REACH hopes to cultivate future audiences.

"We need to be more aggressive in developing an appreciation of the arts and of dance," she said. This program is also "a way to stabilize a dance company."

With financial support from foundations and corporations "the dancers will be able to dance -- to do what they like to do," RTC added Ms. Hess, who said she would like to extend the program to about 20 city and county schools.

The Macht Foundation, established by homebuilder Morton Macht and his wife, Sylvia, is contributing $7,100 to Project REACH.

The PHOENIX, made up of about 10 professional dancers and UMBC students, performs its regular season at the university and gives performances throughout the state and in Washington and New York City.

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