A high step
DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS Local dancers rehearse at the Pennsylvania Performing Arts Academy, Tamaqua. Those who will be featured on stage at the Kennedy Center this weekend are, first row from left: Caitlin Metzger, Lauren Haupt and Anna Cannon. Second row: Paige Nebistinsky, Rachel Rega, Alesia Casler, Vanessa Wagner and Virginia Rivera. Third row: Sarah Bair, Brianne Morgan, Alexandra Kurek, Courtney McCarroll and Crista Behr. Absent from photo are Emily Romberger and Christina Scheeler.
A dance team that holds regular rehearsals just steps away from Tamaqua's Five Points intersection will appear this weekend on a world stage at the crossroads of American government.
"Our students have been invited and will perform at Kennedy Center in the District of Columbia on Feb 19-21," said Philomena Huesgen of the Pennsylvania Performing Arts Academy (PPAA), West Broad Street.
Fifteen PPAA girls ages 13 to 23 from northeastern Pennsylvania will be featured in the First American World Stage Invitational of the American Alliance of Performing Arts Educators.
It represents the second world stage appearance for the troupe as last year the girls performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
The girls hail from several towns in the TIMES NEWS coverage area and nearby communities. They are students at the following schools and school districts: Tamaqua Area, Panther Valley, Blue Mountain, Mahanoy Area, Schuylkill Haven and Nativity B.V.M. High School in the Pottsville Area School District; along with Kutztown University, Wilkes University and Lehigh Carbon Community College.
The event is international in scope and so the dance team will perform its routine along with teams from other countries and other dance teams from across the U.S.
By virtue of their appearance on the Kennedy Center stage, the PPAA group automatically will be invited to participate in future Invitationals at Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall, and will have passed the vetting and audition process to appear in London two years from now for the 2012 Invitational to take place during the London Summer Olympics.
Huesgen told the TIMES NEWS that a London appearance is only in the talking stages insofar as the Tamaqua group is concerned.
"We haven't made a definite decision regarding London, but will have to do so in the near future."
The PPAA is unique in that its competitive dance team has an open-door policy.
"It is open to anyone," said Huesgen. "They can be from another school, but they must audition and they must take ballet lessons somewhere."
In fact, two of the PPAA girls to perform at the Kennedy Center are not PPAA students, but rather students of Schuylkill Ballet Theatre. But they joined the dance team and have been embraced by the other members.
So it doesn't matter where a girl is taking her lessons, says Huesgen. But what's important is that the student is enrolled in ballet class.
"It doesn't necessarily need to be here," she stressed, noting that the show to be presented at the Kennedy Center this weekend will be different from what the dance team performed at Carnegie Hall last year.
"We do a new show every year for competition," she explained.
The dance team has been rehearsing since last November with sessions held every Saturday in Tamaqua. Each year, the group also performs on the telethon to benefit the Carbon-Tamaqua Unit of the American Cancer Society.
The PPAA teaches students ages 3 to adult. More information is available at (570) 668-5550.
For local residents who want to catch the group's show, the dance team will perform its Kennedy Center presentation at the group's annual recital. The recital will take place at the Tamaqua Area Auditorium, Sunday, June 27, 1 p.m. curtain time.
The American Alliance of Performing Arts Educators is a group of performing arts professionals, all current or former teachers, who showcase talent on world class venues, inspiring a performing group to the highest standards.
The local dancers will travel via bus and will arrive at the Hall of Nations Plaza, after which they will receive their performance instructions.
Many parents and chaperones from the area will accompany the students.