Children's entertainer plans to bring disco, ballroom `alive'

NEIGHBORS

September 06, 2000|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT'S ANOTHER example of life coming full circle. Beginning Monday, John "Kinderman" Taylor, who swears that "disco is not dead," will teach ballroom and disco dancing lessons at Slayton House.

Taylor, 64, stars in the children's television program "It's Kindertime," which airs Saturday mornings on WMAR-TV (Channel 2). Next year, he hopes to gain national attention through syndication of his show.

"I want to get to a point where people know me, and I can teach techniques for movement and music and relaxing and leaving love with the children," Taylor said.

But for now, the longtime Columbian returns to his old stomping grounds, teaching dance classes in a village center to Columbians who like to move.

Ask the Kinderman "How are you?" and he'll respond, "Flawless." That's the kind of answer you would expect from a man who describes himself as a natural-born entertainer.

"But I listened to my mother, who said, `Get an education first,'" he said. "Then if you're out of work, you'll always have something to fall back on."

So for 16 years, Taylor taught art in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County public schools. In 1978, he began studying dance therapy at Goucher College.

"I could look at a dance and pick up the steps and teach it," Taylor said. "At that time, the `bump' was a popular dance."

He kept his day job and at night, offered a class on how to do the bump.

"To my amazement, 40 people showed up," Taylor said. "Immediately after the bump came the hustle and then disco just went through the roof. I even taught Jim Rouse and his wife how to do the hustle."

Taylor also taught Oprah Win- frey to hustle. When Winfrey lived in Columbia, Taylor gave her a private lesson at Kahler Hall in Harper's Choice village.

"Oprah was one of the most nervous persons," he said. "She never thought she could dance. She was so stiff she would hardly move. It took me an hour and a half to get her to relax."

Soon after, Taylor was offered a job teaching dance full time. "It launched my career," Taylor said. "That was a big turning point in my life. They were calling me the `Disco King.' I quit my teaching job with Anne Arundel County, built my big house in Owen Brown and the next year, disco died."

Taylor kept teaching ballroom dancing and started offering aerobics classes. In 1980, he was commissioned by Wolf Trap to write a curriculum for teaching music and movement to preschool children.

"I started concentrating on children's programs, and I taught `Kindercise,'" Taylor said. "I thought, `The kids know Batman and Superman. I'll be Kinderman.' I wear a derby hat and suspenders and people recognize me wherever I go. I'm a walking advertisement."

Taylor has won three regional Emmy awards since his television program made its debut in 1997.

And next week, he will teach dances such as the waltz, fox trot, swing and the hustle for six weeks. The cost of the classes is $60, and registration is required.

Information: 410-730-3987.

Marvelous movies

Subscriptions for the Marvelous Movies & More film series are on sale at Slayton House in Wilde Lake Village Green.

The series' ninth season will open with a showing of the 1932 classic, "The Dark Horse," starring Warren William, Bette Davis and Guy Kibbee, at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 15.

Film historian David Pierce said the series was the brainchild of village manager Bernice Kish.

"We wanted to create a social event," Pierce said. "We wanted to have the same kind of feeling you get at community theater where you talk to your friends afterwards, so we created a film series with a host."

Pierce said he chooses films that are "not very common," and most of them are not available on video. "We show American movies from the 1920s to the1950s," he said. "I look for a balanced series with musicals, comedies, mysteries, dramas and silent films."

The series is made up of 10 films. Silent movies are shown three times a series and are accompanied by Ray Brubacher, a pianist from the American Film Institute.

"We always have about 130 people show up, but for the silent movies we've gone as high as 220," Kish said.

Pierce introduces each film and leads a discussion after each screening - followed by desserts, coffee and tea, provided by Bun Penny Food & Wine.

"I've always been interested in films," he said. "This film series offers me the perfect opportunity to see these 60-year-old films come to life along with 100 other people."

Pierce said his favorite actors include Ronald Colman, Lon Chaney, Beatrice Lillie and Colleen Moore.

"I love to see long-forgotten actors and actresses charm and engage audiences across the years," he said.

Many subscribers return to the film series year after year, Pierce said. "They know it will be an enjoyable evening with a good film, good discussion and great desserts," he said.

A subscription costs $58; $52 for senior citizens. Season or individual tickets can be purchased at Slayton House.

Information: 410-730-3987.

Cadet on dean's list

Cadet Benjamin R. Coffman, son of Miles and Cynthia Coffman of Columbia, was named to the spring semester dean's list at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He also earned Distinguished Cadet Academic Recognition.

Coffman graduated from Wilde Lake High School last year. He is concentrating his studies in general management and plans to graduate from West Point in 2003 and be commissioned an Army second lieutenant.

The Coffman family resides in Hickory Ridge village.

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