They stand tall, with perfect posture, poised young ballerinas until -- for no apparent reason -- they dissolve into giggles and hugs as their teacher and mentor watches with a smile.
For 40 years, Edna Lee Kuhn has watched girls blossom into young women. She celebrates that milestone for Edna Lee's Dance Studio with a dance gala today at Anne Arundel Community College.
Since 1957, Kuhn has prided herself on the standards she sets for her dancers. She is a teacher, not a promoter.
"I don't want to be known as a competition studio. We train dancers to dance professionally," Kuhn says.
Many of her dancers go on to professional careers.
"One of my students is currently in Australia finishing an Asian tour. Another, Jeanie Duran, is working in Las Vegas. One even has a doctorate in dance," Kuhn says proudly.
Several students have returned as teachers. After she retired to Florida five years ago, Kuhn handed the reins of the studio to Mary Moran. After all, she had taught Moran herself and followed her career on Broadway.
The current generation of dancers also has dreams that transcend the Burwood Plaza Studio in Ferndale. All find a joy in dance that makes them feel special.
Several of the girls are performing professionally. Jodi Atkins, 16, is in "Anything Goes" at Annapolis Summer Garden Theater. Her sister, Ashley, a graduate of the Edna Lee Studio, also performs in dinner theater.
While all the girls express a desire to continue dancing, they're realistic about the chances of making a career in dance.
"I want to be an orthodontist when I get older," says Jessica Barke, 12, of Pasadena. "I dance for fun."
When others are asked if they ever dance just for fun, the girls erupt in laughter. They are always dancing: down the halls at school, in the aisles at the grocery store, at the mall.
Like a matriarch, Kuhn watches her girls with a bemused expression. She knows that when it's time to concentrate, their energy is channeled to dance, focused on the teacher.
"The moment I see them, I can tell. When I look at them, I can tell immediately whether they can make it into a ballet company," Kuhn says. "But anyone that has the desire can dance."
Talent is only part of the equation.
"Look at Tiger Woods," Kuhn says. "He started training as a little guy and, with his dad behind him, he succeeded."
Barbara Wallace does her part for her daughter, Katrina. At 14, Katrina is preparing to attend Archbishop Spalding High School in the fall. In the interim, she continues with her dance lessons while her mother waits patiently.
L "It's the same as Little League," Wallace said with a smile.
And this afternoon, Wallace, her friends and family will see the curtain rise on another generation of dancers.
Edna Lee's legacy.
Edna Lee's Dance Studio will give its 40th anniversary gala at 2 p.m. today in the Pascal Center at Anne Arundel Community College, 101 College Parkway, Arnold. Tickets are $10, $8 for children younger than 12. Information: 410-859-8511.
Pub Date: 8/17/97