Sesame Street Live dancer counts herself among lucky

September 23, 1994|By Kelly A. J. Powers | Kelly A. J. Powers,Special to The Sun

It's appropriate that a one-time college math major would end up playing Count von Count in a Sesame Street Live show.

Ernette C. Goode, a native Baltimorean, is touring with the 15th edition of the Sesame Street show, which continues its appearances at the Baltimore Arena through Sunday.

After graduation from Mercy High School, Ms. Goode entered the University of Maryland Baltimore County intending to major in math. Her advisers took one look at her schedule of calculus, physics and chemistry and urged her to . . . "Lighten up!" laughs Ms. Goode from her hotel room in New Jersey, where the show opened its tour. "So I enrolled in a dance class,

ballet. And I wasn't too happy. Didn't care for it at all."

Until then, the only dancing Ms. Goode had ever done was mostly in clubs, out with friends. But sometime during that semester something clicked -- probably when Ms. Goode realized she could combine the love of dancing with math.

"When it became challenging, when dance made me think, that's when I liked it," she says. "I take all my math problems and bring them to life. How do you take a body of center and make it revolve itself?"

She continued taking a math class here and there, but dance was the new major. Four years later, when she graduated with a degree in visual and performing arts, she headed for New York to make a living.

A few years after that, in 1990, she auditioned and won a job with Sesame Street Live. The pay was good, the travel exciting, and the show entirely dance (the voices are prerecorded by actors with the TV Sesame Street). Now she travels nearly 11 months of the year, blissfully leading the road performer's vagabond life (although her mother, Bernadette, and two sisters live in Baltimore and Ms. Goode still calls this home).

"I have friends all over from years of touring," says Ms. Goode. "I enjoy the road, I like touring. To me, I'm living a life like any other, just the same as someone who lives in Baltimore. I still have to pay my bills, do my laundry."

The Sesame Street troupe performs more than 900 shows in morethan 150 town and cities on tour.

Ms. Goode, 33, often feels a sense of community no matter what town she's in. "When I get in, I always try to find out where the gym is, where the church is, where the dance studios are. By going to these areas, I get to meet the real people that live there."

But she does miss the uniqueness of Baltimore. Ms. Goode grew up in northwest Baltimore, in a neighbor hood called Arlington.

"On the road, I've met a lot of people who love Baltimore, who like the Inner Harbor, how the city homes look like suburbia, how there's no high-rises," she says. "For me, I always miss the steamed crabs, the Hawaiian snowballs on Liberty Heights Road, the barbecue on the street and the fairs and Lexington Market."

This year's show is themed "Let's Be Friends." Ms. Goode has a starring role, with her own dance number.

Count von Count, who resembles Bela Lugosi's Dracula, is an easy character for Ms. Goode. "I see him as very regal, very firm, very proper," she says. "But being proper doesn't mean that he's above all others. The others are there to help him out, because when he starts to count, he gets so caught up, that the other guys have to bring him back."

While she enjoys playing Count von Count, Ms. Goode says she often tires of his insatiable desire to count everything from grains of sand to raindrops. But she understands his obsession -- it's virtually the same thing she feels about dancing.

"I will always do something that incorporates dance," she says. "I won't ever stop performing -- even if I'm an administrator, because I'll be running a dance program."

The reasons why Ms. Goode loves dancing? Not even Count von Count could count them all.

SESAME STREET LIVE

What: Sesame Street Live's "Let's Be Friends"

Where: Baltimore Arena

When: Through Sunday, with morning, afternoon and evening shows.

Tickets: $9 and $11

$ Call: (410) 347-2010

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