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Pine Forest students bring their talents to the Riverside Arts Market

All it took were some angelic singers and tiny swingers from San Marco’s Pine Forest School of the Performing Arts to warm an enthusiastic crowd during a recent windy, chilly Saturday at Riverside Arts Market.

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The school’s choir and dance ensemble joined together on March 10 for their second RAM performance since December and only the second public appearance for the ensemble, which is in its inaugural season.

“They liked us so much the first time that they invited us back,” said Maggie Rhoden, a fourth grade chorus student who enjoyed herself in spite of the cold.

“We enjoy performing at RAM,” said Chorus Director Terri Wester. “The atmosphere is great and the people who run the entertainment are very easy to work with.”

The chorus is made up of about 40 fourth and fifth grade students who have to audition for their parts.

While the dancers also had to audition – which over 200 did, with 78 making the ensemble – they are composed of kindergarten through fifth grade students, arranged by grade level into three performing groups.

It is a community-based troupe, focusing on public appearances rather than competition, said Laura Hammock, the ensemble’s teacher. It is an after school program that grew out of Hammock’s passion for dance, which she incorporates into her second grade classroom.

“It’s fun, it builds self-confidence and it gives them a chance to perform,” said Hammock, who taught dance for over 20 years. “It also prepares the ones that want to focus on it here or at Lavilla [the performing arts middle school] for their auditions.”

For third grader Keionna Watkins, it was a chance to do what she loves best.

“I love to dance,” said Watkins, who has been dancing since she was three. “I got to show people what I got and I liked watching the other dancers, too.”

She also really enjoyed how the crowd warmed up to the students’ performance.

“They were cheering and screaming and yelling children’s names. They didn’t seem cold at all.”

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