Dancers from throughout the county, including 16 from Glen Burnie area schools, came together to put on a show at Chesapeake High School during the third and fourth nights of the All County Dance Festival on Thursday and Friday.
The festival included performances by representatives from all 12 county high schools, more than 15 middle schools and more than 35 elementary schools. Due to the massive number of dancers that perform, the festival is split between three locations over six days. The first two performances already took place at South River High School in Edgewater. Two more shows took place at Chesapeake High School and the final shows will be held on Feb. 17 and 18 at North County High School in Glen Burnie.
The festival is the brainchild of Anne Arundel County Public School (AACPS) Dance Coordinator Judi Fey and is celebrating its 30 year anniversary.
"It started as one festival at South River that was only for the high schools," said Fey. "The very next year, the elementary and middle schools decided that they want this too so we added a second night. Eventually, we added a third and fourth night. Two or three years ago, it had grown so big that we had to add the fifth and sixth nights."
Fey said that more and more schools want to perform each year and it may eventually require that the festival span even more nights.
"It's turned into a really huge thing," said Fey.
In order to perform, schools send in a statement of their intention to be part of the festival in the fall. The music used in the performances is screened and organizational meetings take place later in the year in order to prepare the programs for each night.
"I've been attending [the festival] for pretty much every year," said Patti DeMarco, dance instructor from Old Mill High School. "The company is ready and they're doing great. We're also going to a regional high school dance festival at the end of this month and they're excited about that. It's a big deal."
The 13 dancers from Chesapeake High's company performed a piece to James Dooley's "Ira Decorum" on Friday night.
"It's a lot of fun," said Katie Aquino, a sophomore at Chesapeake High, who was performing at the festival for the first time. "Ms. J [dance instructor Dyana Jonoseak] works with us really well and I learned a lot more technique from her than I ever would have otherwise. And Ms. J is amazing. She's very supportive, she's always there for us and she always makes sure we're exactly on point. Overall, she's just an amazing teacher."
Aquino was excited to perform in the festival.
"I'm just gonna do my thing and have fun," she said.
Students performed a variety of different styles of dance throughout the evening.
"We try to mix up the performance styles a lot so we don't have a night of just ballet, for instance," said Walter Skipley, coordinator for Health, Physical Education and Dance with AACPS. "These have been some incredible nights. We've got a number of schools that are performing this evening that have never been a part of the dance festival program and the excitement for that is building."
Fey emphasized the importance of the dance program for students in the area.
"It's an activity that's noncompetitive and that appeals to a lot of kids," said Fey. "It reaches kids that athletics might not reach. It's also very academic. The discipline of dance carries over to academic discipline, and studies have shown that regular participation in the arts improves academic performance."
The community showed tremendous support for the performances at Chesapeake High on Feb. 10 and 11 since both shows sold out in advance, according to the AACPS site.
"There are so many reasons why this is important," said Fey. "It reaches kids in so many ways."