This is the point where Mickey and Sylvia pause for the guitar break.
The air guitar break.
Because that’s the instrument the kids play, bridging the gap until Mickey and Sylvia return, both lamenting how love is strange.
And, you know, the kids are really good at the air guitar, but Garland Goodwin Wilson wants them to play it a little better.
“Step out there, and really play,” she said.
She holds one hand out to hold the invisible guitar neck while strumming the invisible strings with the other.
“I want you to really play your guitar,” she said.
The kids can’t help giggling. They step to the side, emulating Wilson’s stance.
This will be their time in the spotlight, the point at which they will be the stars in Of Moving Colors’ annual post-holiday production, Kick It Out.
The show opens Friday, Jan. 25, in the Manship Theatre and features 86 children dancing alongside members of the professional contemporary dance company.
And among them will be the group of 5-7-year-olds dancing to the 1956 crossover hit, “Love Is Strange,” by rhythm and blues duo Mickey and Sylvia.
Most audience members will be familiar with the song, especially the part where Mickey asks Sylvia, “How do you call your loverboy?”
They’ll also recognize the guitar riff, which, again, will be the kids’ specialty in this number.
But the recognition doesn’t stop there. Kick It Out is known for its program of swing and pop songs featuring such familiar voices as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. They’ll be in this year’s mix, along with Ray Charles.
And, of course, Mickey and Sylvia.
“It’s always a fun show,” Wilson said.
She’s the company’s artistic director. She also made the decision to bypass a holiday production for one that kicks in the new year.
It’s why the show is titled Kick It Out.
That was four years ago. Of Moving Colors had staged holiday shows in the past, but the scheduling process had become too chaotic. So many music, theater and dance groups also were scheduling their shows during the holiday season, and some cast members were participating in multiple productions.
So, Wilson decided to move Of Moving Colors’ production to January, when schedules are open and potential audiences are looking for things to do.
But even this has changed somewhat since Kick It Out officially kicked off in 2010.
“Baton Rouge’s arts calendar is filling up in January,” Wilson said.
“There’s so much going on in the arts, and it’s really good for the city.”
She’s right. The holidays may have ended, but the events have been nonstop. And now Of Moving Colors is ready to take the stage with its cast of kids.
This is what makes Kick It Out different from the company’s other productions. Children’s auditions are conducted in August. They are divided into groups according to their age, then spend their Sunday evenings during the fall season at the Powell Moise School of Dance learning their dances.
Now the learning is done, and the polishing of their performances has begun.
“And it’s been fun working with the kids,” Rebecca Prudhomme said.
She is in her first season as a professional company member. She’s joined by Marlon Grigsby, who also is a first-year company member.
Both are working with the 10-11-year-old group with a dance number choreographed to Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack.”
“And I’m Jack in that number,” Grigsby said, laughing.
Now, many local dance fans will know Grigsby as the Mouse King in the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s annual production of The Nutcracker — A Tale from the Bayou. Of course, no one can see his face when he plays the Mouse King, because it’s covered by, well, a costume mouse head.
But everyone in the audience will be able to see his face when he steps on the stage as Of Moving Colors’ Jack.
“Yeah,” Grigsby began, “I’m Jack, and all the girls are mean to me in this song, making me hit the road.”
Prudhomme’s character is his main nemesis in the dance, but she’s his comrade when it comes to teaching.
“The kids seem to pick up the dances quickly, and they’re not afraid to ask questions,” she said.
The 5-7-year-olds sitting on the opposite side of the studio definitely aren’t afraid to ask questions.
“We sit them down for a talk-though before they start dancing,” Wilson said.
“We talk it through with them first, and it’s easier for them to remember what they’re supposed to do.”
Sitting among this group is Wilson’s 7-year-old daughter, Wilhelmena. If anyone is a veteran of this show, it’s Wilhelmena Wilson.
She’s been dancing in Kick It Out since age 4.
“This year, there’s a little more for us to remember, so it’s a little harder,” she said. “But I like it. It’s fun.”
Now, it’s clear that Wilhelmena Wilson isn’t the only dancer having fun here. Joining the professional company this year are New Orleans dancers Muriel Capdepon and George Santana. They’ll be dancing to Frank Sinatra’s “Cheek to Cheek.”
“And they’ve just announced that they’re getting married,” Wilson said. “So, that adds even more romance to the number, and it makes it that much more fun.”
Capdepon and Santana joined the company during the summer.
“Muriel drives in for rehearsal four times a week, and George rides with her twice a week,” Wilson said. “And they say they don’t mind the ride, because it gives them more time together.”
Now they get to help Of Moving Colors kick in the new year to classic popular songs performed on the backdrop of air guitars.
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