The young dancers at Cape Girardeau's Academy of Dance Arts dance school will have little time to rest this weekend. In the course of two days they have two performances, the academy's "13th Hour" fund-raiser for Sahara Aldridge and Toybox on Saturday and an appearance at the annual Arts Council of Southeast Missouri Children's Arts Festival Sunday afternoon.
Those two appearances will mark the culmination of months of work for the dancers, who range in age from 7 years old to teenagers.
"They've been working on this since August," said ballet instructor Sharon Hinkle. "They've been putting in a lot of time and effort, and they're really excited about doing it."
The 60 or so students in the academy have been working on their "13th Hour" program, in which they portray toys in a toy store that have come to life for the holidays, in preparation for the Saturday fundraiser. But when arts council director Delilah Tayloe recently viewed a preview performance, she asked the girls to perform at Sunday's festival.
The Sunday performance, which begins at 3 p.m. in Academic Hall, will mark the first time in the festival's seven-year history the academy students will take part in the event, combining the disciplines of music, dance and visual arts for the festival.
This year's Children's Arts Festival differs from previous events in many ways, chief among them the format of the concert. In past years, the concert was performed by professional musicians, playing a piece of music written by a professional composer and inspired by children. But this year, the only performers will be children, more than 100 of them with Central Middle School's Shere Khan, the Academy, Christmas carolers from Central High School and the Kelly Middle School Honor Choir.
Tayloe said the festival's new format will allow the event to better serve its true purpose -- encouraging children to explore the arts.
Pam Dumey, who directs Shere Khan, said she's "excited" that this year's concert is an all-children show. Her students will perform the same program they presented at the National American Orff-Schulwerk Conference, a music education group, this year in Omaha, Neb. Selections will showcase Shere Khan's affinity for ethnic African sounds, including a piece called "The Lark in Africa," written by local percussionist Dr. Michael Gill. Another African-tinged piece called "Pantheris tigris benegalensis" was also written specifically for the group by Paul Corbiere.
"It showcases what children can do in the field of artistic expression, and it gives us a chance to display that in the community in a larger-than-one-school format," Dumey said.
The 100-plus musical performers are only a small fraction of the total population of students from area schools who are taking part in the festival. Almost 1,900 students from Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Scott and Stoddard counties had some part in the festival through the involvement of their teachers.
This year, the festival was expanded to more school districts, despite a 50 percent cut in funding by the event's primary sponsor, Tayloe said. She didn't say which sponsor, but Southeast Missouri Hospital is the primary sponsor. Other sponsors include Padiatric Eyecare of the Heartland and the Missouri Arts Council.
In the months prior to the Children's Arts Festival, CDs were sent to area classrooms with "Turkey in the Straw," "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies" and "Sleigh Ride." Teachers played the tracks for students as they created two-dimensional visual art pieces. Almost 250 of those students' pieces made it into the show and artists reception that will take place at the arts council immediately following the concert.
Those works were published in a booklet that will be given out at the reception, and the young artists will be available to sign the publications.
"There's a freshness and vitality and an unstudied honesty to it all," Tayloe said. "They're just full of life and very fresh.
"I consider them all masterpieces. A kid can come up with something that can kind of blow your mind as an artist, or as an adult."
"They're going to remember this all their lives," Dumey said of her students.
Tayloe can speak from personal experience. When she was a student growing up in central Missouri, a piece of her art was selected for display in St. Louis.
"It meant so much to me that something I did in first grade was actually hanging in St. Louis," Tayloe said. "I always had that little thought that's what encouraged me as an artist. That's what I want children at this festival to do."
335-6611, extension 182
* What: Children's Arts Festival
* When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10
* Where: Academic Hall auditorium
* Info: 334-9233