For Concha Marchitelli, director at the New Hope Academy Performing Arts Center, dance is about giving back.
“My contribution to the kids is to have them understand that whenever they’re on stage, to give to the audience,” Marchitelli said. “I think the performing arts many times is really self-centered. You can be the best that you can be and you’re there to give to the audience ... it’s not about you, it’s about them.”
This is the message Marchitelli will deliver to her dancers in the New Hope Academy Dance Company before they take the stage Saturday for their spring performance at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts.
The dance company is part of the New Hope Academy Performing Arts Center, which also incorporates singing and the New Hope Players, a drama troupe. While the performing arts center and dance company are part of the New Hope Academy, a private K-12 school located in Landover Hills, both are open to students from any school.
“It’s not only for [our] students, but the school really wanted to serve the community and make it available for all,” Marchitelli said.
Originally from Spain, Marchitelli came to the United States on a scholarship to dance at the Martha Graham Dance Studio in New York City. In 1990, she moved to Maryland to start the arts program at New Hope.
“I really wanted to know how to move on and to pass what I have on to other people,” Marchitelli said.
As a part of the school’s academy program, high school students at New Hope have the opportunity to take classes through the performing arts center and earn elective credit.
“Even though they are cutting [arts programming] everywhere else ... we feel it makes the person a rounded person, a full person,” Marchitelli said. “It’s very important ... for the children to experience not just the academics, but the arts. The arts exercise another part of the brain. You want to be a balanced person.”
Marchitelli started the dance company three years ago as an outlet for those students wishing to pursue dance more seriously.
“It’s considered a privilege so they know they have to commit to it,” Marchitelli said.
“It was kind of like a natural shift for us within the program,” said Valerie Branch, assistant director of the company. “We were able to work with those girls who are a little more serious.”
After studying at a performing arts high school in Syosset, N.Y., Branch moved to Maryland in 2001, where she earned an associate degree and, later, a bachelor’s degree in dance from the University of Maryland. In addition to her work with New Hope, Branch also teaches and performs with a number of area dance companies, and even runs her own company, Connecting Vibes USA.
The New Hope Academy Dance Company has two divisions — junior dancers age 9 to middle school, and a senior program for middle and high school students. In addition to performing throughout the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area, the company also attends workshops. In January 2013, the group won gold and high silver in the New York City Dance Alliance Competition. The company holds rehearsals once a week after school and on Saturdays. Marchitelli is in the process of starting a pre-company for dancers ages 6 to 8. She held auditions just a few weeks ago.
“When you start with them young, they are able to hone their skills,” Branch said.
According to Marchitelli, Saturday’s concert will feature six pieces from the company, incorporating a variety of styles of dance. Dancers from the New Hope Academy Performing Arts Center also will have the opportunity to showcase ballet, jazz and hip-hop pieces.
In spite of the honors, Marchitelli and Branch continue to stress to their dancers that they are the ones rewarding the audience.
“When we talk about performance, it’s a chance for the performers to give a gift and the audience to receive a gift,” Branch said. “I hope the audiences walk away with joy in their hearts.”