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One 'Glee' star and thousands of dancing kids to highlight Music Center's children's festival

March 31, 2011 |  9:00 am

MusicCenterPlaza2004BlueRibbonFestivalBobChamberlin

The Music Center’s Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival, which annually features not just one cast of thousands, but several of them, will be back for a three-day run starting Tuesday.

The festival has been presented each year since 1970, and next week’s edition will give 18,000 fifth-graders from 245 schools in Los Angeles County a chance to see L.A.’s Diavolo dance troupe perform at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

When Diavolo is done, each audience of 3,100 will file outside onto the Music Center’s plaza and kick up its heels en masse, performing some of the choreography from “Atom,” a dance from Diavolo’s repertoire.  The kids have been rehearsing for their Busby Berkeley moment in their own classrooms; before they get their cues, they’ll have had a chance to see how the pros do it, since the 10-member Diavolo company will dance “Atom” as part of its program.

The first group of fifth graders on Tuesday will have a ringer joining it for its plaza performance –- Harry Shum Jr., who plays the über-limber dancer Mike Chang on the TV show “Glee.”

Shum The free event, which is open to all county schools on a first-come basis, aims to introduce students to the performing arts. For many students, it’s the first time they’ll have attended a professional arts performance.

Mark Slavkin, the Music Center's vice president for education, said that a special endowment of several million dollars established by Blue Ribbon, a Music Center support group, provides the bulk of the festival's $200,000-plus budget, and volunteers from Blue Ribbon staff the event.

An additional $1-million endowment from Blue Ribbon member Maxine Dunitz covers the cost of providing each participant a short, hard-bound book called “A Journey Through the Music Center,” which acquaints youngsters with the four downtown venues and provides broader information about the performing arts.  Some extra copies will be available this year for non-attendees; parents can request one by sending name, address and phone number to blueribbon@musiccenter.org.

Blue Ribbon, open to women only, was launched in 1968 by the performing arts center’s prime mover, Dorothy Chandler. Over the years, its members, who contribute annual dues of $2,500 each, have donated more than $50 million to support the Music Center’s resident companies and its education programs. Men have their own support group, Fraternity of Friends.

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-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Top, Fifth-graders at the Music Center's 2004 Blue Ribbon Children's Festival try out their synchronized dance moves. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times. Middle: Harry Shum Jr. / Associated Press.

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