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Troupe makes cut at the Apollo

November 11, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

HAGERSTOWN

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

Late last month, 15 dancers from the Washington County Boys & Girls Club went to the Apollo Theater in Harlem, N.Y., for a chance to perform live at the toughest amateur night in the business.

They made the cut.

The dance group, Noize, will perform in April at the Apollo Theater's amateur night. The performance will air on "Showtime at the Apollo," though the date the show will air has not been determined.

The children belong to the Pennsylvania Avenue club, which started a dance program last year.

The group has performed at The Maryland Theatre and Municipal Stadium. The group also performed for the opening day of the Washington County Junior Football League, said Anna Shelter, the club's dance coordinator.

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Shelter, 18, of Hagerstown, is a cheerleading coach for the Giants junior league football team. She starts school at the University of Maryland, College Park, in January, but she said it wouldn't stop her from helping Noize get ready for their big show.

"I've got class Monday through Thursday, but I'm coming back every Friday until April," Shelter said.

Shelter holds hourlong rehearsals every day of the week. Teaching the children dance moves was a challenge, since none of them had any previous training, Shelter said.

"It was so interesting to see how many good dancers came out of nowhere," she said.

Several of the children breakdance during the three-minute routine. At a rehearsal Thursday, several boys spun their legs across the floor, twisting their bodies around like an oscillating fan.

Little girls stand in rows alongside the breakdancing boys, shaking their shoulders and arms rapidly.

Frederick Manor used to be the only club with an active dance program, said Buck Browning, director of operations for the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County. Frederick Manor's program emphasizes cadence stepping, a form popularized by black fraternities and sororities. Hip-hop dance was a new medium, Buck said.

"When Anna showed us how hip-hop dance would be a positive experience for our kids, we were like, 'OK, let's do it,'" Buck said.

The 25-member group could only take 15 dancers to Apollo's open audition Oct. 29 because there weren't enough vans for more, Browning said. The group has been saving cans as a fundraiser for the trip, Shelter said.

The group has come a long way since last year, Shelter said.

After driving hundreds of miles and standing in line for hours, the children finally got their chance to perform. Their hard work was about to pay off.

"It was just like 'American Idol,'" Shelter said. "People would sing two words and the judges would say 'OK. That's enough.' I was thinking, 'I hope they don't cut us off like that.'

"They performed the best I've ever seen them perform, but I didn't know if it was good enough. I really didn't think we were going to make it. There were so many dance groups with kids in them, and New York has the best of everything."

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