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Dancers delight audience at the Ritz

Last Saturday, hundreds of local citizens experienced a colorful world of Cole Porter-themed tap and jazz, combined with classical ballet from 19th century Europe.  Miss Susan’s School of Dance’s annual spring recital drew a large and enthusiastic Ritz Theatre audience.

For the first half of the program, the young dancers sparkled and shimmied as they went “tappin’ and jazzin’” in a tribute to one of America’s most popular 20th century composers, the legendary Cole Porter.

The preschool and kindergarten dancers charmed in their opening number to “Another Opening, Another Show” followed by performances featuring the various jazz and tap classes set to beloved standards “All of You,” “Night and Day,” “Anything Goes,” “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “True in My Fashion.” Vivian Gates ably and enthusiastically performed a solo tap using the challenging stutter step to “You’re the Top,” with Gates and her fellow dancers E’vodnei Benjamin, Maggie Godwin, Lilly Ingram, Anne Elise Shealy, Eden Skipper and Taylor Ridgeway rounding out the first half of the program with a lively performance to “Too Darned Hot.”

Following a brief intermission, the curtains opened to reveal the backdrop of a quaint Italian fishing village, ushering in “Napoli.” The ballet, said to be the greatest work of August Bornonville, is set in Naples on the bay of Santa Lucia. First danced by the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen in 1842, the three-act ballet, featuring music by Rossini, Helsted, Gade, Paulli and Lumbye, is still danced by the Danish company just as it was 175 years ago.

Principal dancers for “Napoli” included Reagan Hay as Teresina, the  pretty young villager who falls in love with the handsome fisherman Gennaro, performed by Joseph Price. When a terrible storm washes Teresina out to sea, Gennaro receives a special medallion of the Madonna from the Holy Lady (Mary Crenshaw) and sets out to find her.

Naiads (sea sprites) have spirited Teresina away to the blue grotto, where their tempestuous and powerful queen Golpho (Caitlyn Tillery) is consumed with jealousy when her subjects prefer Teresina to their queen. Teresina has lost her memory and believes herself to be the naiads’ queen. Golpho threatens the lives of both Teresina and Gennaro, but the holy medallion and the naiads protect the lovers and they escape.

On their return to Naples, the couple are feted by Teresina’s mother (E’vodnei Benjamin) and all their friends, who soon celebrate the happy pair’s marriage.

The Ritz audience seemed captivated by the dancers’ brilliantly colored costumes—as vibrant as old Naples itself—as the troupe ably executed instructor Susan Andrews’ choreography for this timeless tale.  Other dancers featured in “Napoli” include Alegretto soloist Grace Gibson, performing with Taylor Ridgeway, Eden Skipper and Lily VanDyke, and the Andantino dancers Vivian Gates, Maggie Godwin, Lilly Ingram and Anne Elise Shealy, with Gates performing a solo to the Allegro.

With the entire school filling the Ritz stage for the finale, instructor/choreographer Susan Andrews praised her dancers, their families and her entire crew of helpers for making the annual event a success. Andrews was visibly moved as she spoke of Price, her grandson and the school’s principal male dancer, graduating and going away to college in the fall. “Maybe I will talk him into coming back to join us next spring,” Andrews said with a smile.