Long Reach teen tackles fame, tap dances into the spotlight

NEIGHBORS

April 22, 2003|By Dana Klosner-Wehner | Dana Klosner-Wehner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LONG REACH High School junior Trent Covington recently had a brush with fame. And those who know him well suspect this will not be his only "15 minutes" in the spotlight.

The 17-year-old tap dancer performed at the Kennedy Center with famed choreographer Debbie Allen to sold-out audiences for more than a week this month. He had a standout role in the show "Brothers of the Knight," written, directed and choreographed by Allen as part of the Kennedy Center's Imagination Celebration series for young audiences.

In Trent's performance as the eldest of the 12 brothers, he twirled Debbie Allen across the stage, gracefully lifted her into the air, and, along with the other "brothers," flipped her in midair. Trent hip-hopped, tap danced and swing danced to standing ovations.

The show is something of a fairy tale. It is a hip adaptation of the Brothers Grimm classic tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses, said Rae Bazzarre spokeswoman for the Kennedy Center. It is set in New York City and recounts the story of the 12 young Knight brothers who are forbidden to dance by their father, a strict preacher. Despite their father's rule, the boys sneak out every evening to dance the night away.

Just like the boys in the story, Trent has been dancing since he was 6. But his start in dancing is quite a different story. His mother, Karen Covington, really wanted him to try dancing, after watching a boys dance recital.

"I was going to the recital to sign my daughter up for dancing," Karen Covington recalled. "The boys all looked so cute in their tuxedos." Karen Covington has always loved musical theater and was in the drama club in high school. "I thought it would be something fun for him to do."

"She asked me if I wanted to tap dance and I said, `No way, dancing is for girls,'" Trent recalled with a laugh. "So, she bribed me. She said if I danced for one year she would give me 50 bucks! What 6-year-old could turn down 50 bucks?" And the rest, as they say, is history.

Trent has opened for Gregory Hines at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall as one of a group of seven boys known as the Hot Steppers. He has danced at the Capitol on the Fourth of July; he performed in the Cherry Blossom Parade; at the Corcoran Gallery of Art; and Wolf Trap. In 2001, he won the gold medal for dance in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientic Olympics competition for Howard County.

"Trent is an outstanding dancer and performer," said Artis Mooney, executive and artistic director of dcArtistry: Tap and Drum. "His style is so distinctive. He is one of the very strongest members of our company."

Allen agrees. Trent made it through a tough audition process in which, after four call-backs, he was chosen to be one of 44 performers from among the 500 who auditioned. This show was performed by young people for young people. It was performed mostly by Washington-area dancers ages 8 to 20.

"Whenever I audition dancers, I'm looking for a level of technical ability and a certain stage presence," Allen said. "I'm looking for that light turned on when they are performing. There's a certain energy. There's that `it' thing that you just can't describe. Trent had all that.

"He is at a professional level in tap dancing, and he had good ability at hip-hop. I knew I could teach him whatever else he needed to know," Allen added.

It was not only Trent's dancing skills that Allen noticed. "He's got a wonderful manliness," she said. "He looks good. He's warm. He smiles a lot, and the girls follow him around. But he also pays attention and works hard."

Does he have what it takes to be a star?

"He has what it takes," Allen said. "He could move to Los Angeles right now and be a professional. That's if he didn't want to go out and play football."

Trent's talents lie not only in dancing. He also loves football. And true to his style, Trent excels at the game. He is the quarterback of the Long Reach High School football team.

"He's a coach's dream," said football coach Pete Hughes. "He's the type that will take the blame for things that weren't his fault. He's a natural born leader. He's one of our hardest hitters. He really impresses me out on the field."

It is not only his football coach who is impressed. Trent has major universities looking at him, Hughes said.

"I have no doubt he will be playing college football in the next two years," Hughes said. "And that professional football aspiration of his; with his work ethic and athletic ability, I have no doubt he can do it. But if he doesn't become a pro football player, I have no doubt he'll become a pro in his other field."

It may seem that tap dancing and football don't mix, but Trent uses his tap dancing skills on the field.

"Dancing takes a lot of balance and muscle control," Trent said. "It takes a lot of coordination that really helps out on the field. When I'm running one way and I break down to get around my opponent, I feel myself doing little steps. That comes from tap."

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