From tap to hip-hop to traditional Indian dances, a competition in Columbia fosters diversity of form

On the floor, talent and variety

February 14, 2007|By Adrienne Morris | Adrienne Morris,sun reporter

The many styles of dance surprised 15-year-old Ann Marie Gover.

"It was very different from the type of competitions I usually go to," Gover said about Saturday's Battle of the Dance, sponsored by the Columbia Association's Teen Advisory Committee. "They're normally just lyrical, tap and jazz, but this was very cultural, with the Indian dances and the different forms of tap and hip-hop."

Gover, a River Hill High School sophomore who wants to pursue dance in college, won the individual competition with a lyrical dance to The Wreckers' "The Good Kind." She has studied dance since she was 8.

The Battle of the Dance, held at The Other Barn in Oakland Mills village, was started last year by Carol Wasser, facilitator of the Columbia Association Teen Advisory Committee. The committee, which creates and organizes events, is made up of about 15 teenagers from the Columbia area.

One of three judges on the panel, Danny Nguyen, a 24-year-old break-dancer, said he enjoyed all of the contestants.

"They're really talented and so diverse, and it's hard to make a decision," Nguyen said.

Giovanni Gallerio and Marie Nguyen, both 23-year-old dancers, were the other two judges.

The winners of the group competition, a Flair Dance Studio jazz group, were choreographed by theater student Mari Travis, 22, a dance instructor who also performed with two of her students in a tap ensemble.

"[The competition] was awesome. It brought so many different cultural backgrounds together and enabled other students to appreciate other forms of dance," Travis said. "This is our first time even hearing about [the contest], and we didn't know what to expect. But we're having a great time."

An eight-girl group from Abinaya Natya Sala, placed second in the competition with an Indian classical dance routine. The girls, who ranged in age from 10 to 13, also perform at University of Maryland, Baltimore County competitions. Two girls from the group placed in the individual competition, as well. Maya Thakar took second place and Shalini Ray placed third.

The contest also featured Top Notch -- Shaneka Simpson and Quayoe Jones, both 21, Kimberly Jones, 19, and Gianearlo Simpson, 20. The group, which placed third, does not belong to a studio, and its members choreograph their routines. They said they are planning to audition for BET's 106 and Park, a video countdown show that often includes talent competitions.

Siblings Pedro and Isabella Romero performed a waltz. Pedro, 13, and Isabella, 11, have been taking ballroom dance since last summer. Their interest was sparked by the ABC television show Dancing with the Stars. They said they are one of the youngest couples at their studio in Beltsville, Ballroom Dance School.

"They both enjoy the more traditional dancing, which I find interesting," their mother said. "It's a good influence for children."

"The costumes are awesome," Isabella said. "The sashes and dresses [are all] different colors, and there's really pretty jewelry and shoes."

The six winners were given trophies, and though most competitors left without an award most were excited about the diversity of dance they had seen.

"The other dancers were great!" said Christine Wyatt, 11. She performed in a tap dance with Isaiah Maze, also 11.

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