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ART BEAT: Youth Concert Series returns to Gwinnett for its ninth edition

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Special Photo The Sugarloaf Performing Arts features new works by guest choreographers and its students Jan. 26 and 27 at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center.

Each year, Sugarloaf Ballet presents an event titled "Youth Concert Series" created to promote concert dance work in our area. This year's edition will be presented on Jan. 26 and 27 in the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center. Showtimes are 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. General admission tickets are $12 and can be obtained at Sugarloaf Performing Arts' facility in Duluth or at the door.

There are thousands of young dance students in Gwinnett County, and after high school they have a choice to continue dancing professionally or as a part of their college experience. The latter option is the one most frequently taken, and many metro area universities have developed excellent dance programs. Sugarloaf's concert series is a way to bring some of these institutions to a local audience to show what they can produce.

"These are the type of quality programs we are preparing our students to transition into when they complete their studies with us," Sugarloaf's Company Director Michelle Bourgeois said.

The upcoming YCS concert will include dance pieces from Georgia Ballet, Kennesaw State University, Brenau University and Bravo Dance Center in Acworth.

Aside from distinctive choreography, these dance organizations are selected based on their ability to bring a high level of technique to their performances. For example, KSU will present a contemporary ballet piece titled "Rebuild" created by renowned choreographer and assistant professor of dance Sandra Shih Parks.

The YCS was started in 2004 as an in-studio demonstration. Sugarloaf Ballet Artistic Director Lori Zamzow-Wire has used this event to support her goal of building an organization that inspires young artists through excellence in arts education. It is also an opportunity for young company members to create choreography with their peers.

"My parents encouraged my craft at an early age," Zamzow-Wire said. "They supported my passion for dance. I want to do the same for my dancers."

Young Sugarloaf dancers can begin at age 13 to learn about creating dances and all that goes into putting them on the stage. They can submit a choreographic work, but that's just the starting point. They then learn about costuming, lighting, securing rehearsal space and developing rehearsal schedules. During the shows, young choreographers are allowed to share their inspiration with the audience members.

This year, YCS will feature five student choreographers with six entries that include lyrical, contemporary, jazz and hip-hop pieces. A piece for the Petite Company, "Dust Bunnies," has been created by Company Director Michelle Bourgeois. Zamzow-Wire has choreographed a production piece titled "Muse," which features 37 dancers.

"I participate in YCS because I love to see a vision that I had in my mind come to life with real people," said Leah Nicoll, a third-year YCS student choreographer. "My imagination becomes reality."

In addition, Sugarloaf Ballet will present works from their current season's repertoire including solos, trios, duets and small and large group pieces.

Sugarloaf Performing Arts is located at 1140 Old Peachtree Road, Suite B, in Duluth. For more information about this nonprofit, call 770-476-0025.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.