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Sumter Civic Dance Company celebrates 40 years

100 former members return for 'Dance Vision'

BY IVY MOORE
Features contributor
Posted 3/10/20

There's a not-so-secret code in Dance Vision 2020 and a surprise in Sumter Civic Dance Company's concert of that name. Patriot Hall will host the concert at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and the stage will be filled with costumed …

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Sumter Civic Dance Company celebrates 40 years

100 former members return for 'Dance Vision'

Posted

There's a not-so-secret code in Dance Vision 2020 and a surprise in Sumter Civic Dance Company's concert of that name. Patriot Hall will host the concert at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and the stage will be filled with costumed dancers.

Company director and chief choreographer Andrea Freed-Levenson said, "20/20 is perfect vision," and Erin Levenson Harms added, "And 20 plus 20 is 40."

"The stars lined up just right for the company's 40th anniversary," Freed-Levenson said.

They also aligned for many of the past company members to return for a reunion-anniversary celebration.

"It wasn't hard to talk them into coming," Freed-Levenson said. She sent out email invitations, "and in just a few days, about a hundred had accepted."

Those attending include several from each of the four decades Sumter Civic Dance Company has been thriving, housed at Freed School of Performing Arts, which coincidentally turns 65 this year. The former company members are arriving from as far away as Hawaii, California, Florida, Chicago, Memphis, Missouri, Texas and other locations around the U.S. and South Carolina.

Paul Pecko, who lives in Orlando, left Sumter 40 years ago. He expressed the feelings of many of the former dancers when he said, "Freed School gave me purpose, responsibility, integrity, reliability, to say a few. I like to be there for Andrea, to see the joy (her dancers) have all brought her over the years."

Like other returnees, Pecko learned the choreography "from Andrea's videos and her sister Judi (Freed-Siegfried)," who owns University of Performing Arts in Oveido, Florida.

Toni McCray is in her fifth year with the company. She said, "Freed School is a second home to me. (It's) a place where I can have fun with friends doing what we love. We are all a big family."

She added, "Dancing is like second nature to me. If I'm not at school or at home, I'm dancing. When I'm not there, it's as if I'm missing something important."

About getting together with former company members, McCray said, "Seeing all of the people you've danced with all your life and people you've grown up watching is amazing."

Freed-Levenson pointed out that several former dancers will be dancing with their children, who are current members.

Harms, Andrea Barras, Tia Robinson and McCray have each contributed choreography, while most of the dances were choreographed by Freed-Levenson. In addition, the graduating seniors in the company, Sarah Bennett, Jasmine Washington and Mary Catherine Matthews, choreographed their dance to Alicia Keys' "This Girl Is on Fire."

The concert will demonstrate the dancers' skills in a variety of styles, from swing to hip hop, jazz, Broadway, pop, contemporary and pointe.

Lucy McIver will sing "If They Could See Me Now" from the Broadway musical "Sweet Charity" as the company dances.

"The returning dancers tell me that when they were here they had a wonderful experience," Freed-Levenson said. "It means as much to them as it does to me.

"This is so much fun!"

The Sumter Civic Dance Company presents Dance Vision 2020 at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Patriot Hall, 135 Haynsworth St. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door and can be purchased at Freed School of Performing Arts, 527 N. Guignard Drive. For more information call the school at (803) 773-2847.