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Finding adventure by traveling down the perfect Rabbit Hole

Alice in WonderlandBeloved characters come to life in Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s production of “Alice in Wonderland.” COURTESY PHOTOAlthough dancers learn to smile onstage – other than during tragic moments in the plot of a ballet – Genevieve Pelletier was concerned she had perhaps overdone it in her last role. She was the lead in the Marzipan dance in Metropolitan Ballet Theatre and Academy’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

Then along came a role in which an oversize smile fits perfectly.

The 17-year-old Quince Orchard High School senior will be playing the Cheshire Cat.

“I love the Cheshire Cat, who smiles all the time,” she said. “It fits in with my personality.”

Every year Metropolitan Ballet Theatre presents a different full-length ballet during the spring. This year it’s “Alice in Wonderland.”

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Israeli Dance Festival attracts diverse performers and audiences

Ilana Preuss and children in 2016 Israeli Dance Festival DC. COURTESY PHOTOIlana Preuss and children in 2016 Israeli Dance Festival DC. COURTESY PHOTO  You don’t have to be Israeli – or even Jewish – to love Israeli dancing.

Margaret “Peggy” Antonisse, 66, is neither, but she attends Israeli dance sessions open to the public a few times a week. She also serves on the planning committee for the annual Israeli Dance Festival DC, which showcases Israeli dance performing groups of all ages in the area.

“It also cultivates an appreciation of the rich culture of Israeli dance and encourages participation of people from all backgrounds, ages and skill levels,” said Abby Kerbel, one of the co-chairs.

Israeli dance is diverse in and of itself – drawing on Arabic, Yemenite, Latino and Eastern European roots. It incorporates line and circle dances, and sometimes couples’ dances.

“I first developed an interest in Israeli dance as part of international dance in college,” Antonisse said. “It was great aerobic exercise and had a wonderful sense of community – when you hold hands in a circle and the group is moving as one in the same direction.”

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Latest Dance Exchange project zeroes in on LGBTQ+ community

Andy Torres, pictured in the foreground, is a collaborator in the Dance Exchange project “Growing Our Own Gardens.”  COURTESY PHOTOAndy Torres, pictured in the foreground, is a collaborator in the Dance Exchange project “Growing Our Own Gardens.” COURTESY PHOTODance involves not only movement and music but community involvement.

That’s the viewpoint of Dance Exchange, a Takoma Park-based, non-profit arts organization devoted to dance-making and creative practices that engage individuals and communities of all ages to cultivate a deeper understanding of one’s world.

“Dance Exchange collaborates across generations, disciplines, and communities to channel the power for performance as a means for dialogue, a source of critical reflection, and a creative engine for thought and action,” said Matthew Cumbie, associate artistic director.

One of the communities Dance Exchange is now exploring is the D.C. area’s queer community.

With the collective title of “Growing Our Own Gardens,” the organization has created an ongoing project that promotes “dialogue and action about issues faced by LGBTQ+ communities and centers the stories, lives, and questions of LGBTQ+ throughout history,” Cumbie said. “We’re looking at the history of these communities but bringing the conversation into the modern day.”

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Landscape painter finds outdoor inspiration, but executes canvases indoors

Baie St. Paul Creek by Leni BerlinerPHOTO OF “BAIE ST. PAUL CREEK by Leni BerlinerLocal artist Leni Berliner did some painting as a high school student many years ago, and like most student artists, she laid down her brushes after graduation.  But with the new millennium came what she called "a very difficult time" in her personal and professional life, the burden of which her mother sought to alleviate with a gift.

“My mother gave me the gift of drawing and painting classes at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in D.C.," Berliner said.

The classes reawakened a passion for painting and led her to rediscover and cultivate that talent.

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Exhibit pays tribute to laborers with extraordinary art

Woman Cleaning Shower“Woman Cleaning Shower” by Ramiro Gomez from National Portrait Gallery exhibit on work. COURTESY PHOTO  “The Sweat of their Face: Portraying American Workers,” an exhibit on view at the National Portrait Gallery, contains well-known, even iconic, images.

These include “Power House Mechanic,” a black-and-white photograph by Lewis Hine; “The Miner,” an oil painting by Pat Lyon; “American Gothic,” by Gordon Parks, oil on beaver wood; “Mine America’s Coal,” by Norman Rockwell, “Cotton Pickers,” oil, by Winslow Homer, and “Migrant Mother,” a print by Dorothea Lange.

Other images are less known and even surprising, such as daguerreotypes by Joseph T. Zealy of semi-dressed slaves. Richard Avedon, best known for his work with celebrities and fashion icons, portrays migrant workers in a series of photographs.

But co-curators Dorothy Moss and David C. Ward are hoping that regardless of the individual images, viewers understand the exhibit’s goal.

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Maryland Youth Ballet’s unique production of The Nutcracker

MYB 2998 copy sugar plumA past production of Maryland Youth Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” with Justin Metcalf-Burton and Maya Beeman. COURTESY PHOTOMaryland Youth Ballet can boast of many illustrious alumni.

Walk along the hallways of the ballet school, headquartered in downtown Silver Spring since 2006 (after a long sojourn in Bethesda), and you’ll see photographs of some notable faces.

Michelle Lees, the school’s artistic director, points them out: Julie Kent, a longtime principal of American Ballet Theatre, who was recently appointed the artistic director of the Washington Ballet; Susan Jaffe, a former dancer and ballet mistress at ABT and now Dean of the School of Dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem; and Garen Price Scribner and Allison Walsh, who both appeared in the Broadway musical “An American in Paris.”

However, at Maryland Youth Ballet, the emphasis is on both the present and future.

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Award-winning author speaks at Gaithersburg High School

ngozi adichieChimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke at Gaithersburg High School on Sept. 26, as part of the One Maryland, One Book program. COURTESY PHOTO  GAITHERSBURG — Award-winning and world-renowned author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke to an audience of about 1,000 people at Gaithersburg High School on Sept. 26 as part of the One Maryland One Book program.

Adichie is a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Award and her work has been translated into over 30 languages.  She divides her time between nearby Columbia and Lagos, Nigeria.

The Maryland Humanities Council established the One Maryland One Book program 10 years ago to encourage Marylanders to read and discuss a certain book every year. A committee with the council chooses a book that aligns with the year’s theme. This year’s book is “Purple Hibiscus” by Adichie and the theme is “Home & Belonging.”

This year, there are 350 programs in the state focused on this book, including three events with the author, said Phoebe Stein, executive director of Maryland Humanities.

“Purple Hibiscus” is a coming-of-age novel that follows the account of 15-year-old Kambili as she navigates a fraught relationship with her abusive father during political upheaval in Nigeria. Kambili and her brother spend time together living in two different homes: one with their parents, and another with their aunt who, while having less money than Kambili’s family, has a home full of laughter and life. The novel tackles themes such as colonization, religious hypocrisy and gender and family dynamics.

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Chekhov-inspired comedy opens Highwood Theatre’s season

Vanya Pub 11 1 copyThe cast of Christopher Durang's comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” now playing at Highwood Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO  Richard Fiske admits to being an adrenaline junkie.

He fulfilled that need in the past by serving as a U.S. Navy officer for 27 years, then as an engineer and diving and salvage engineer, also for the Navy.

Now he gets that fix onstage.

For over six years, he’s performed as an actor in the D.C. area. “I get to do fun stuff and be different people,” Fiske said.

His current role is Vanya in Christopher Durang’s comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” the production launching Highwood Theatre’s 2017-2018 season. The play also stars Margaret Condon as Sonia, Rachel Varley as Masha, Thomas Shuman as Spike, Kecia Campbell as Cassandra, and Amber James as Nina.

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Halloween attractions gear up for opening

halloween pumpkin carving faceIn 1993, the venture that would eventually become Markoff's Haunted Forest began modestly as a haunted bus ride that visited area. Brothers Matt, Nick, and Alex Markoff conceived of the haunt as a means to raise money for their goal of starting an outdoor educational summer camp.

In subsequent years, the haunt was relocated to the grounds of the Markoff family farm in Dickerson.

"I didn't know if anyone would come," said Matt Markoff. "I hoped people would make the drive." Markoff's Haunted Forest, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, is now a beloved annual tradition for thousands of area residents. The haunt, which employs hundreds of seasonal employees, includes two trails, a haunted western trail, and a waiting area with bonfires, games, rides, and food vendors. Proceeds from ticket sales fund the Markoff's nonprofit organization, Calleva, Inc, which provides educational activities for hundreds of students every year.

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Rockville Little Theatre Celebrates 70 years

IMG 6627 copy other actorsNik Henly and Krisyn Lue rehearse a scene from Rockville Little Theatre's recent production of "Almost, Maine." COURTESY PHOTO  ROCKVILLE — Montgomery County experienced a radical change in the aftermath of World War II. The population of Rockville and surrounding areas swelled as thousands of people moved to take jobs with federal government contractors, the county schools and government and technology companies. And during that time, people from various occupations have come to Rockville Little Theatre to watch and participate in the production of a wide variety of plays.

The community theater company inaugurated its 70th season Sept. 22 through Oct. 1 with a production of the play "Almost, Maine," by John Cariani, which was featured in last week’s review by The Sentinel’s Barbara Trainin Blank. Set in a quasi-mythical Maine town, the frequently-produced play features a series of interrelated vignettes in which characters attempt, with varying degrees of success, to achieve romantic connections.

For the 70th anniversary, Anne Cary, an active member of Rockville Little Theatre, compiled a history of the company, which played an integral part in the development of Montgomery County's cultural scene.

"Sometime in 1947, six friends decided that Rockville needed its own little theater troupe," Cary said. "The founders were Miss Pamela Bairsto, Miss Betty Sherman, Miss Murray Hamilton, Mrs. Margaret Eddy, Mrs. Madeline Davis and Rev. Raymond Black of Christ Episcopal Parish, which was the site of the first production, Noel Coward’s ‘Hay Fever’ in the Parish Hall on Nov. 26, 1948. Rockville Little Theatre was launched."

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