Spoleto 2009 » Dance

CBT spotlights young talent in Off to Oz

Oz Fest

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Stephen Gabriel had fun with this show.

This is not unexpected: a visit to the Land of Oz can be more fun than a barrel of flying monkeys so long as you bring the right friends and keep your heels a-clicking.

What Gabriel, Charleston Ballet Theatre's principal dancer and ballet master, did was pack up a passel of promising young students from the CBT Centre for Dance Education's Broadway Dance Project, point them in the right direction on the yellow brick road with some savvy choreography, and let them bop, boogie, and bounce in time with the tunes.

The students, ranging in age from 9 to 16, will be dancing a hip, contemporary interpretation of the classic tale of Oz.

"It's a whole new take on the story of Oz," Gabriel says. "There's some Las Vegas and Broadway show styles mixed in and lots of popular music, everything from 'I Put a Spell on You' to 'Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road.' "

Also expect some snappy Broadway tunes, classics from The Wiz, and a rousing rendition of the theme from the Monkees heralding the arrival of some well-known winged primates.

"It's a funkier version of Oz," says CBT administrative director Kyle Barnette. "So not only is it more fun for the kids, it also really showcases their talent."

Above all, Gabriel points out that all the dancers — be they scarecrows, lions, witches, Munchkins, or bluebirds — are well trained in their art and ready to wow an audience.

"Kids have some pretty demanding schedules these days, but these students make the time; they are very serious about dancing. Several of them are even in the process of selecting schools where they want to major in dance."

This is exactly what the Broadway Dance Project, an ongoing labor of love launched years ago by CBT Artistic Director Patricia Cantwell, is intended to do: Provide students with the strong foundation they'll need on the way to becoming professional dancers. Given that treks through Oz have a reputation for enhancing courage, brains, and heart, this is a show that ought to help them on their way.

It also should be a lot of fun to watch.

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