LaVerne Reed Young is a gifted, multifaceted Washington choreographer whose work hasn't been seen in a downtown ambiance recently, but who's been active at Howard University and elsewhere in the area for quite a few years. Her quicksilver touch was reaffirmed last night with "Rhythms in Blue," an exuberant dance show at Howard's Cramton Auditorium presented as a benefit for the Beta Zeta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta, an educational, cultural and philanthropic sorority founded at Howard in 1920.
Reed (as she has been known professionally) directed and choreographed the production, billed as a "Broadway Musical Extravaganza." As danced by the more than two dozen performers of the D.C. KAT (Kids About Theatre) Company and the LaVerne Reed Dancers, it included a razzle-dazzle opening and closing ensemble, one vocal number for variety (from "Annie," fetchingly sung by Kim Allen) and 13 dance numbers, most of which were dance interpretations of Broadway hits from shows as diverse as "Call Me Madam," "Sophisticated Ladies," "Cabaret," "Porgy and Bess," "West Side Story," "42nd Street" and "Dreamgirls."
The range of styles and idioms traversed by this material -- from Broadway-style tap, chorus line routines and jazz dance to classical, Afro-Caribbean and jitterbug -- bore witness to Reed's versatility. She handles the whole spectrum with ease and flair, and what is rarer, blends them into natural-looking fusions without calling attention to the process. Her choreographic stitching leaves no seams.
Reed also has a knack for identifying and training exceptional young talent, as the wonderful dancing by Terri Yates and Tony Powell demonstrated anew last night. Powell was seen as well in a dazzling and fervent solo choreographed by Linda Wharton, long a Reed associate. Reed's own most impressive number for the show was "Walk 'Im' Up," a vibrant ensemble portrait of a congregational funeral in the gospel tradition.
Dancers Adrian Vincent James and Patricia Jacobs served as assistant choreographers for the production. Some of the music was recorded; the rest was ably performed by a pit combo and singers under the direction of Ricky Peyton.