Bobbi Smith, 60, Edgewater choreographer and dance teacher who founded youth troupe

January 31, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Bobbi Smith, a choreographer who taught scores of children to dance, died Monday of pancreatic cancer at her Edgewater home. She was 60.

Miss Smith founded the Talent Machine Company, an Annapolis youth troupe. She also taught dance to students at Stageworkz, a Millersville studio she operated with her sister, and at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis.

She was remembered for her exuberance and high professional standards. She often urged students to "Catch the energy."

"She was a dynamo - small, wiry, muscular and fast-moving. She'd start a rehearsal and keep at it until the actors were falling to the side," said F. Scott Black, who leads the theater department at the Community College of Baltimore County at Essex. "She was fast, organized and prepared. She could do in several rehearsals what others would take weeks to accomplish."

"She was a fabulous dancer with an infectious smile and incredible laughter, which spread to everyone she worked with," said Toby Orenstein, founder of Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia, where Miss Smith choreographed shows in the 1980s.

After years as a choreographer in Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia, Miss Smith began work with the Annapolis Summer Garden Theater at the City Dock in the mid-1980s.

"One year she did `Annie' and discovered the wealth of children's talent in Annapolis," said Tom Crouse, her technical director. "She and some others wrote a small, humble production called `The Talent Machine' and a permanent theater company evolved from it," said the Annapolis resident.

"The quality of her shows was extraordinarily high," said Phil Greenfield, a critic for The Sun.

One of Miss Smith's annual productions was a Christmas show often called "Santa's Frosty Follies," featuring her students.

"While tap was her forte, she could teach you to twirl a baton or do the hula," said Dewey Oriente, a former student. "She could also sew costumes, but she kept that talent a well-guarded secret."

Born in Washington, Miss Smith was a graduate of Notre Dame Academy. At 13, she began teaching dancing to friends. She later led the Chillum Adelphia Majorette Corps and studied with Phil Black, a professional dance teacher in New York.

Her 1960 marriage to Leo Capps ended in divorce.

A memorial service for Miss Smith will be held at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Francis Scott Key Auditorium at St. John's College, 60 College Ave., Annapolis.

She is survived by two daughters, Lisa Rodgers of Crownsville and Lea Capps of Annapolis; a sister, Vicky Smith of Edgewater; and three grandchildren.

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