Arts event shines on wartime eras

Reunion: Program with a patriotic theme will span generations.

April 04, 2002|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Years ago, they were dancing together in the Ellicott City Ballet Guild in classical ballets such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

Some have moved on to law or medical school, while others have joined dance companies in Salt Lake City, Boston or Annapolis.

Now 15 dancers spanning three generations of the Ellicott City Ballet Guild - some were members when the guild was incorporated in 1981 - are reuniting to perform at the Howard County Arts Council's Celebration of the Arts.

Scheduled for April 13 at Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts at Columbia's Wilde Lake High School, the fifth annual celebration will feature local and national talent who live, work or started their careers in Howard County.

Capturing the theme of patriotism, "The Arts Salute the Stars and Stripes With an Evening at the Stage Door Canteen" will feature a one-act show of performances that represent eras of the nation at war.

"It's the taste of home for people who were in Afghanistan or who were in Vietnam in the '60s," said Anne Barney, an Arts Council board member.

To the music of Glenn Miller's "In the Mood," former and current ballet guild members will dance to a jazz movement that focuses on how people coped with war and then celebrated when it was over.

Caryl Maxwell Gazmen, the guild's artistic director, said the celebration has allowed her to reconnect with her students, which she does not often have time to do because "as performers, we all live very fast-paced lives."

"We have to be so focused on the present show we're working on that we often lose track of people we love dearly that we would like to talk to and make sure they're OK," she said.

Toby's Dinner Theatre owner Toby Orenstein has rounded up a number of former Young Columbians, a performing group of the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts that she founded, to sing at the event. About 10 past members, including some from the original 1975 group, will perform.

Two former Columbians who have appeared on Broadway - Ric Ryder in Blood Brothers and Grease, and Betsy True-Bloomfeld in Les Miserables and Gypsy - will be featured soloists. Ryder will perform songs from Miss Saigon, and True-Bloomfeld will sing "A Natural Woman."

Orenstein said she singled out the two because they were raised in Howard County and she wanted to give them a chance to show the public how far they have come in their careers.

"With the community being good to Howard arts groups, these people had opportunities that other people in other areas probably did not have," Orenstein said.

More than 20 members of the current Young Columbians will perform songs from the 1960s to the present, including "Let the Sunshine In," "What the World Needs Now Is Love" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

Before the one-act show - which will also highlight Danny Kaye impersonator Brian Childers of Washington, Howard County Ballet and Harbor City Music Company - swing dance lessons will be offered by Columbia choreographers Carolyn Kelemen and Lester Holmes.

The Fabulous 50+ Players, Heart of Maryland Chorus and Reisterstown Jazz Ensemble will be among the performers entertaining the crowd before the main show. The public will be able to bid on a variety of county artists' works, including paintings and jewelry, at a silent auction.

Money raised at the event will benefit the nonprofit Arts Council and Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts. Barney said the council hopes to raise at least $75,000.

In the past four years combined, the fund-raiser has netted the group $253,000, she said.

Barney said this year's arts celebration is especially important because many nonprofits have faced recent challenges in raising money because the public generously contributed to organizations related to Sept. 11 relief efforts. The Arts Council is also expecting a cut in its funding from the Maryland State Arts Council and possibly from the county, she said.

"Gazmen said the celebration will allow the performers - many of whom have benefited from Arts Council grants - to not only inspire young performers, but also show their appreciation to the county and Arts Council.

"It's our way to say thank you in the best way we know how - giving a performance," Gazmen said. "And I love that, I love being able to say it with dance."

Tickets for the Celebration of the Arts in Howard County are on sale for $40 or $75. Information: 410-313-2787.

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