Sally Gracie TwispBy Sally Gracie

Evening traffic over the Loup was much heavier than usual three nights last week when the LFW Dance recitals were going on at the Omak Performing Arts Center. Many families from the valley made the trip on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday to deliver their young dancers backstage, then sit in the auditorium to watch them perform. I attended Thursday’s premiere performance.

Two 2014 Liberty Bell graduates were awarded $500 college scholarships by Lorrie Fraley Wilson, who started LFW Dance 28 years ago. Grace Bitzes-Thomas will use hers at Washington State University, and Patti Watson will use hers at Reed College in Portland. Each girl performed a solo dance, as is traditional for those dancers leaving the program for college.

Grace, like many of Lorrie’s older students, has assisted the dance teachers of the smaller children. During her 11 years of dancing, she has attended a five-day dance workshop in Anaheim, California, competed five times in the Hollywood Dance Experience, and took part in Hollywood Vibe in Seattle. In April she was part of a troupe of dancers from Okanogan County that performed at both Disneyland and California Adventure Park.

Grace studied ballet, tap and jazz with LFW Dance. Her solo was a graceful and romantic ballet performed to “Return” from Forrest Gump. As for leaving her dance classes, Grace says, “I am definitely going to miss them.” 

The daughter of Laura and Russ Bitzes-Thomas, Grace will major in nursing at WSU. 

Patti has been dancing since she was 3, joining Lorrie’s classes in second grade when she and her mother, Karen McCauley, moved to the valley. Patti, who dances tap, jazz and ballet, chose to perform a traditional tap dance number to the American Songbook number “Should I.” Patti made her advanced tap moves and steps look easy — ala Ann Miller or Gene Kelly — as she gracefully covered the stage.

At Reed College, she will study international and comparative policy with three majors: linguistics, economics and sociology. “It’s tough to make the decision to go all the way out on performing arts when I have these other interests,” she told me. Reed encourages its students to participate in extra-curricular activities, so Patti hopes to continue her involvement with dance and theater.

Zane Hickman and Ilo Curtis seemed to be having a great time in the tap dance number “Jumpin Jive.” It will be fun if the two valley boys continue with dance. We can look forward to the solo dance performances of next year’s seniors, Naomi Comstock and Kathryn Bosco, and the growing skills of dancers like Rosie Hickman, Maya Sheeley and many others.

“Why baroque music and poetry?” Matt Armbrust asked in his introduction to the artists on Friday night. “Because it’s cool.” And everything about the Intimate Performance last Friday at TwispWorks was very cool: from the unlikely venue — a 1950s-era Spartan travel trailer — to John Lenti’s theorbo, a stringed instrument so long that its scroll touched the ceiling, to poet/performer Daemond Arrindell, whose work practically demands loud verbal response from his audience. The evening was also cool, and a gusty breeze blew hard.

People sat four seats across with a narrow aisle, and the performers stood at one end of the trailer. John and violinist Christine Beckman played sonatas on reproductions of instruments used during the Baroque period. After intermission in Donna Keyser’s studio, Daemond carried on a conversation in poetry with his appreciative audience. A unique and delightful evening.