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Small town, big talent

Dancer Madeline Speir sweeps on mascara in the dressing room as she prepares for Saturday’s performance of “Hollywood Dreams.” (Photo courtesy of Angie Long)

Dancer Madeline Speir sweeps on mascara in the dressing room as she prepares for Saturday’s performance of “Hollywood Dreams.” (Photo courtesy of Angie Long)

By Angie Long
The Greenville Advocate

No one can say a small town like Greenville doesn’t know how to put on a really big show.

Sonya Sims Rice and her troupe of student dancers brought “Hollywood Dreams” to life on the stage of the Greenville High School auditorium Friday and Saturday nights in the 18th edition of Sonya’s Dance and Fitness’s annual recital.

Dancers from preschool age through high school seniors performed to more than two dozen songs featured in Tinseltown blockbusters, ranging from animated comedies like “Monsters University” and “Despicable Me” to fantasy adventures including “The Hunger Games” and “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug.”

Senior dancer Erica McNaughton was featured as the waitress who ditches her unappreciative customers to pursue her dream of seeing her name in lights. The show followed the star-struck dancer on her journey from busy diner to bustling sound stage, with the various numbers introduced via “director” Garrett Till and sound bites from the spotlighted films.

McNaughton and her fellow advanced class dancers “put in professional hours this week” in preparation for the ambitious production, Rice said.

“We try to give them a taste of what life is like for a dancer actually performing on Broadway as we prepare for this show each year,” Rice said. “It’s a huge undertaking, and I couldn’t do it without the help of a lot of great people.”

Three guest artists familiar to the Camellia City audience also appeared in the show. Former Rice student Tori Bailey, now studying at Troy University via dance scholarship, and Rice’s own daughters, Cory and Courtney, all brought their artistry to the stage.

Rice herself joined McNaughton and fellow senior Hope Riddle in a moving performance to LeeAnn Rimes’ “Please Remember” to say farewell to one another as teacher and student.

“We have so much talent in this little place we call home. Many of our dancers are also musicians, and they participate in the Greenville Area Arts Council’s annual productions each spring,” said Rice, who also serves as production choreographer and co-production manager for the GAAC.

“I really love being able to celebrate and share the arts with our youth and our community. I want people to come here for a couple of hours, really be entertained and leave feeling good about what they’ve experienced.”