The activities room on the far side of Lutherville Laboratory Elementary School on York Road is full of jazz dancers dressed in black leggings and tank tops on a recent Wednesday afternoon. The room smells of team spirit, the beat of the music races through the floor up to my chest.
The dancers are under the instruction of Brittany Brothers, graduate of Towson University, and her assistant, Morgan Colburn, a senior at Maryvale High School. Brothers and Coleburn are just two of about 15 dance staff with the Lutherville Timonium Recreation Council Tap/Jazz program. Dancing since elementary school, and now an instructor herself, Brothers beams when she says "I get paid to do what I love!" Brothers and Colburn are in seven dances numbers during the two recitals taking place at noon and 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 26 at Dulaney Valley High School.
There are a total of 30 tap, jazz, hip hop and lyrical dance classes with children and adults, as well as six companies (members by invitation) that are under the discerning eye of Val Wagner-Hippen. She's a busy lady and doesn't waste a minute of the one-hour jazz class I recently observed at the Lutherville Lab.
Getting down to business very quickly staging and leveling dancers so all rotate from front to middle to back. This will be "Miss Val's" 13th year as director, instructor and choreographer with LTRC tap/jazz programs. Wagner-Hippen teaches 15 dance classes plus directs five companies, but oversees the entire LTRC tap/jazz. Thirty-three years with rec and parks, Wagner-Hippen said that "it's always been my goal to offer kids who can't afford $500 tuition at a private studio the same level instruction and over all dance experience for less than $200."
For this year's recital, all the dance numbers have a proper name in the title. For example, one tap number is, Hey Mickey. A lyrical piece is State of Grace, and the finale is Valerie. Wagner-Hippen said "I'm going to have audience participation and we're going to run it like Name that Tune game show, the audience will guess the tune after hearing the first few notes of the song. I've been wanting to do this for years — it will be so fun." She smiles.
When I visited the Wednesday 4 p.m. class, I saw about 15 girls taking commands from Miss Val as she strategically placed dancers for the jazz number, Seven Nation Army. Over the music, she counts "One and two and three and four, pas de bourreé, five and six and seven and eight. Chassé, hip roll.
Jenna Farabaugh, eighth-grade student at Ridgley Middle School, Lutherville, steps intuitively with the counts and commands. She has been taking dance lessons from Miss Val at LTRC for nine years, since kindergarten. It's a passion for Jenna, she said "All my years of practice helped me pass the high school dance audition for ninth grade at Dulaney".
Dance mom, Peggy Hundley, of Lutherville, was inspired to take adult tap after her daughters', Britt and Bo, recital. "I can do that!", Hundley said. "I thought my daughters wouldn't approve, but they encouraged me." Peggy's Peggy and Bo Hundley, a senior at George Washington Carver Center for the Arts and Technology. Towson, are now taking a class together. It quite a dancing family, Hundley's oldest, Britt, is on Wagner- Hippen's dance staff, and even her Hundley's husband, T.J., participated in the father-daughter dance with Chloe, 14. Aside from a shared experience with her daughter, Peggy Hundley enjoys the camaraderie with the other 19 ladies that share the same interest, "It's so much more that just dance, it's a real friendship between us. We support each other."
Wagner-Hippen laughs with another dance mom, Cami DiGiacomo, of Lutherville, as they agree that it sometimes turns out to be a therapy session as well as a dance class. They share successes and disappointments, births and deaths. DiGiacomo, along with her 26-year-old daughter, Angie, have been taking dance at LTRC for seven years. When asked if she gets nervous before the recital on stage at Dulaney High School each year, DiGiacomo says "my heart drops to my feet when we go on."
I can't help but notice the straight posture of Hundley and DiGiacomo when they talk about their dance experiences. Hundley said that when selecting the adult costumes, Wagner-Hippen is sensitive to what body parts should be highlighted and what parts should be covered. All the adult costumes are different and individualized. Wagner-Hippen is a dance mom as well, her 9-year-old daughter, Tori, joins in her classes. "It keeps us close!" Wagner-Hippen says.
This is my first article as Lutherville columnist. Please contact me at email@example.com if you have any Lutherville success stories or topics you'd like to read about. On a personal note, I've been married to Bill Peterson for 22 years. We have twin daughters, Jane and Jenny, who are 14, and who attend Ridgely Middle School. Three pug dogs, all 5 years old, are also a part of our family.