Articles and reviews – Baltimore Sun

First Steps

Baltimore Sun, December 6, 2000
Special To The Sun (an excerpt)

By Clare Croft

For reasons that remain mysterious, Baltimore has been unable to establish a thriving resident professional dance company on the order of the Pacific Northwest Ballet of Seattle, the San Francisco Ballet or the New York City Ballet.

So it might be naturally to conclude that Charm City has made a negligible contribution to the dance world. That conclusion would be wrong.

The dance schools that serve as Baltimore’s professional training are relatively young – the oldest dates back to the 1960’s – but they’re now at a stage when their list of alumni performing professionally is growing quickly. Baltimore-trained dancers have recently appeared in such major troupes as the Alvin Ailey Company, the Merce Cunningham Company, Broadway’s “Fosse,” the San Francisco Ballet and the Begirt Ballet.

“In New York, when you talk to the dancers, they know Baltimore as a dance city,” said Latria Harper Coleman, a Towson State University graduate, Baltimore native and dancer in Broadway’s “Lion King.” They know that a lot of well trained people come out of Baltimore.”

A closer look at the lives of a few alumni helps shows what Baltimore dance teachers, choreographers and schools are doing right:

Amy Marshall

Credentials: Artistic Director of Amy Marshall Dance Company in New York City; former dancer Paul Taylor II and Parsons Dance Company.

Baltimore training: B.A. Goucher College, 1992

An inspired teacher identified choreographic potential in Marshall that she didn’t even recognize in herself.

“Throughout her schooling here, I knew she had the ability and the drive, but she was the one with the dream,” said Amanda Thom-Woodson, who chairs Goucher College’s dance department. “No one had to push her.”

Well, not too much.

“I didn’t really want to study choreography, but it was a requirement,” Marshall said. “By senior year, Amanda was talking me into doing my own show.”

After graduation, Marshall joined the “second” company (a group of young, promising professionals) created by the legendary Paul Taylor. But she didn’t forget about choreographing, and apprenticed herself to one of the best.

“I essentially studied with Taylor for five years,” Marshall said. “I constantly said to myself, ‘Learn from this.'”

After Marshall left Taylor II, Woodson invited her to teach and perform at the Goucher Summer Arts Institute in July 2000.

“I got together some choreography and dancers and came,” Marshall said. “Suddenly, my dancers wanted to know what we were doing next. And, I said, ‘Well, what are we doing next?'”

Her continuing efforts to answer that question led to the creation of Amy Marshall Dance Company earlier this year. Marshall’s choreography is based on the athletic, muscular dancers in her company. It’s not avant-garde, but dancey; emphasizing such classic qualities as long body lines and expansive movement.

The choreography reflects Marshall’s own strengths as a dancer – the ability to switch between light, suspended movement and heavier, weighted movements with no perceptible change in the flow. “Amy stood out to me as a real modern dancer,” Thom-Woodson said.


The company will perform at Goucher College in March and at the Summer Arts Institute in 2001.