The name of a Suitland High School student who choreographed a classmate's piece for a dance showcase was incorrect in the Feb. 6 Prince George's Extra. His name is Ricky West. (Published 2/20/03)

The senior members of Suitland High School's magnet dance program weren't thinking about Saturday's black history program at Capitol Heights' John E. Howard Community Center when they choreographed the pieces they will perform.

Community, self-esteem, pain, redemption, liberation and love were the themes that mattered to them, that allowed them to bring emotion to their dancing, that allowed them to try to tell a story to which everyone could relate.

As featured dancers at the free Modern Dance Showcase, the Suitland High School Performing Arts Dance Company will use some of the pieces they spend four hours a day rehearsing to fit into the overall parameters established by the event's coordinator, Herman Carter.

For the fifth year, Carter has organized a show of neighborhood dance groups made up of children and teenagers to expose youngsters and adults to the arts. Besides the headline group from Suitland, two groups from District Heights -- Dance and Praise Cultural Arts Center, and Dance Dimensions -- also will take part.

"We feel that the best showcase we could have is the performing arts students from Suitland. They are highly talented and introduce other kids in the neighborhood to an art form they might not know about," Carter said. "They learn that it's not that bad to do something that's different. . . Even if they don't try, it makes them more aware of what's out there."

This year's theme is "Expressions," and each dance group will do its own interpretation for each of the three sub-themes, "Roots and Branches," "Revolution" and "Souls of Black Folks," categories that represent different eras: 1900 to the 1930s, 1940 to the 1970s, and 1980 to the present, respectively.

The Suitland students' pieces, which they are also using to audition for college dance scholarships, fit well into the designated themes, said the school's director of dance, Barbara Marks.

The pieces to be performed include Erin Carpenter's "A Silent Cry Unspoken," a lyrical solo dance about a suffering woman in Africa, set to Sade's "Pearls"; Charonne Butler's self-choreographed piece, "A Battle to Death," in which she uses a wooden staff to act out a battle scene; and Patrice Gladden's untitled dance around a rose on a stool, choreographed by classmate Ricky Williams and set to current pop hit "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera.

Part of the reason Carter is so excited to have the Suitland High School dancers in the showcase is that the school has a reputation for producing successful artists.

All of the dancers are in their last year of the magnet program, which marries jazz, ballet, modern and African dance and choreography with a regular high school curriculum. In its 15 years, Suitland's magnet system has established a history of sending students to summer and college programs and occasionally into prestigious dance companies such as the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Because they spend much of their time in the school's annex, a space separated from the main academic building by a football field, the students describe their high school experience as being in a tight-knit community of people who share a passion for the arts.

Butler, a 17-year-old from Landover, said the 42 dance students -- out of the 3,500 students at Suitland High -- function like a family.

"We're close. This dance magnet program inspires a lot," Butler said.

"I like doing dance to tell a story," she said. "So I used a historical backdrop involving the struggles of women. Regardless of how the battle might be, you won't be able to do it on your own."

The Modern Dance Showcase will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m Saturday at the John E. Howard Community Center, 4400 Shell St., Capitol Heights. No tickets are required for the free performance. 301-735-3340.

Suitland students Brittany Branch and Michael Weems rehearse a duet for Saturday's Modern Dance Showcase.Suitland student Erin Carpenter rehearses "A Silent Cry Unspoken."