Ballet troupe leaps onto national stage


March 19, 2002|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE MARYLAND Ballet Theater Company, whose home is in Crofton, has been invited to perform at the opening of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington on Sunday, beginning at 12:30 p.m.

Arleene Monahan, the company's founder and director, said, "It truly is such an honor to be invited to perform in such a prestigious event, and MBT is so very proud of all our accomplished ballerinas who will be performing."

The event holds additional significance for Monahan. One of her first performances as a young ballet student was at the festival.

Monahan danced for many years, performing with the Apprentice Company of New York's Harkness House for Ballet Arts, until injuries forced her to abandon her plans for a ballet career. For 10 years, she said, the loss of her childhood dream was so painful that she couldn't listen to ballet music or attend performances. Then, after she married, Monahan's mother encouraged her to return to dance so she could share her love of ballet with her daughter Erin.

Monahan began teaching ballet with an area studio. When that studio closed, the students' parents encouraged Monahan to open her own ballet school. In 1989, Monahan opened the Maryland Ballet Theater Academy in Crofton, with her daughter as one of her students. During the years, hundreds of girls have been introduced to the world of ballet, worked hard to polish their skills and performed in annual productions of The Nutcracker and other shows. The girls have auditioned for and won prized appointments to programs organized by such groups as the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, the American Ballet Theatre and The Rock School.

Last summer, Monahan began the Maryland Ballet Theater Company. The 24 girls worked intensely to further develop their skills. Together the company has attended such professional performances as Sleeping Beauty and Le Corsaire at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. After the performances, the girls have gone backstage to meet the dancers and discuss their art.

Preparing for a public performance such as the Cherry Blossom Festival involved hundreds of hours of work by the teachers, the dancers and their parents. On Saturday, the girls began at 1 p.m. and continued until 9 p.m. During a late-evening run-through of the Cherry Blossom Festival program, the dancers showed intense concentration, disciplined work and love of the ballet.

Several girls ages 6 to 10 finished their dance and left the floor, exhausted. Two minutes later, they ran back, shouting, "I want to watch this." Sitting along the wall, they stared open-mouthed at the older girls' performance of Riverdance.

Kristin Rogers, a 16-year-old junior at South River High School, has been dancing for years. She has successfully auditioned for three prestigious summer ballet programs and hopes to become a professional dancer. Sunday, she will dance in La Bayadere and also in Stars and Stripes. She said that before a performance she is "really excited and nervous. But once you're on stage, you're thinking about the steps ... and doing what you have to do." Kristin usually practices five days a week. For events such as the festival, she is at the studio every day.

That means Kristin's mother drives her every day. Parental involvement is an important part of MBT. Mothers sew the costumes, and fathers in the stage crew take care of the sound, set and dance floor.

Monahan said she recognizes that most of the girls will not become professional ballet dancers but that the experience helps them develop poise, self-esteem and discipline, and a love of ballet that will enrich their lives.

The company will performs Sunday at the National Cherry Blossom Festival stage in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Information about the performance or the company: Arleene Monahan, 410-721-6157.

Palm Sunday procession

Christ the Servant Lutheran Church will open its observance of Holy Week with a procession around Severn Square Shopping Center on Sunday. The ceremony will begin with the blessing of palms at 9:15 a.m. at the church, located in the shopping center. The congregation then will proceed around the center to the church for the Palm Sunday service.

Visitors are welcome. Information: 410-551-6325.

CARP meeting

Crofton Area Retired Persons (CARP) will meet tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. in the Parish Hall of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Crofton. After a business meeting, Stephen Patrick, curator of Belair Mansion in Bowie, will present a slide show and discussion on the mansion's history.

Membership in the senior organization is open to area retirees age 55 and older. Luncheon meetings are held the third Wednesday of each month from September to May. Annual dues are $10, and the luncheons cost $8. Information: Patrick Rubilotta, 410-721-2148.

Tobacco-Free Kids

From Scout troops to schools, from DARE to day care centers, many West County groups have organized anti-tobacco activities for Anne Arundel County's seventh annual Tobacco-Free Kids Week, which runs through Sunday.

Events will encourage adolescents not to use tobacco. TFK Week is part of the Learn to Live cancer-prevention program of the Anne Arundel County Department of Health.

Tomorrow, science classes at Crofton Middle School will make a paper chain with the names of people who have died of smoking-related illnesses and people who have stopped smoking. The chain will be hung in the school cafeteria.

Meade Middle School pupils will present "Day of the Dead" for eighth-graders Thursday. Pupils will represent people who have died of smoking-related causes.

Crofton Meadows Elementary School pupils will participate in an anti-smoking poster contest.

Information: Evelyn Stein, 410- 222-7209.

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