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Dance concert Friday and Saturday

Sommer Schaap practices "Opening Mandelbrot," a song originally by the Blue Man Group, with elements inspired by Cirque du Soleil, at the Worthington Auditorium Tuesday. (Veasey Conway/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Big-city lights are the name of the game at the 17th annual spring dance concert of Kay Williams Prunty's The Dance Academy, set for this Friday and Saturday at the Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.

"I'm inspired by the night skylines and lights of big cities," expressed Prunty, owner, instructor and choreographer of The Dance Academy. "This concert will incorporate some of the concepts of big-city life -- shopping, entertainment and the lights themselves.

"We have a bunch of songs referencing Las Vegas, New York, Hollywood and Paris -- Paris being known, of course, as 'the city of lights.'"

From preschoolers performing a ballet to "Chapel of Love" to middle school students doing a jazz routine set to "Poker Face" to high school students sharing a Cirque de Soleil-inspired routine to the Blue Man Group's "Opening Mandelbrot," Prunty's light- and city-themed show will offer a lot for a diverse audience to enjoy.

"Our opening number is a Broadway show jazz piece, 'Las Vegas,' featuring high school dancers," revealed Prunty, who has coached and guided her roughly 200 dance students annually en route to the May performance weekends for the past 17 years.

For 15 of those years, Worthington High School (WHS) senior Kara Honius has been part of Prunty's ensembles. Honius and three of her WHS peers -- Anna Koepsell, Whitney Coriolan and Nikki Russell --represent Prunty's graduating class this year, and collectively they've logged nearly 50 years of instruction at The Dance Academy.

"They'll leave a big hole in the program, but I think that every year," said Prunty. "My students truly become like family, and I get so attached to them. It's so fun to watch them grow up and mature into these wonderful young women, but in my eyes I can still see them as preschoolers and kindergarteners, just starting to learn the basics.

"It's going to be hard to say goodbye to this group."

Another looked-for highlight of Prunty's dance show is the Dads' Dance, which this weekend boasts 22 fathers who will be decked out a la Fred Astaire for a medley that includes "New York, New York."

"It's not just all contemporary music, so older people in the audience should recognize a lot of the music, too," assured Prunty.

Besides the several age-specific classes Prunty teaches, her beginning, intermediate and advanced ballet classes will deliver a special ensemble piece -- Prunty's own interpretation of "Rapunzel," in which the beginning ballet students depict forest mice, bluebirds, bunnies and chipmunks, the intermediate students are villagers (after Rapunzel is released from her tower) and the advanced ballet group are at the palace and, ultimately, Rapunzel's wedding.

Koepsell will portray the graceful Rapunzel, while junior Rachel Drietz is the fairy princess in the "Rapunzel" sequence.

"I'm really excited about this, because it's the first time all three levels of ballet classes will be seen in one piece," said Prunty, who had instructional assistance with the advanced ballet class this year from Randi Mimick. "There are 34 ballet students involved with it, plus Alex Purdy as the prince, so that's a lot of people on stage at one time."

As in past years, Prunty has selected a community cause to benefit from the generosity of her enthusiastic audiences. Attendees are invited to bring a personal hygiene or household care item (think laundry detergent or toilet paper) to donate to Love, INC. For each item donated, donors will receive a ticket that will be placed in a drawing for a gift basket, featuring treats from local businesses like Rickers Photography, Lakeshore Clips (Stephen Woitalewicz), J & J Auto Wash, Culligan, Lit'l Wizards and The Dance Academy.

"I'm so grateful for the community's support of my dance program over the years, and I always like to try to find ways to give something back," explained Prunty. "We have wonderful families and dancers here, and I so enjoy working with all of my students.

"Sharing the outcome of our year's work and practice in dancing is such a highlight of this annual show -- I can't wait for everyone to see what these dancers can do."

The Dance Academy's "Hit the Lights" will take place Friday at 7 p.m., and Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St., Worthington. Tickets remain available for the two Saturday shows and may be purchased in advance at Center Sports or at the box office prior to each Saturday performance.