By Judith Fogel
Alexandria, VA – Alexandria’s Lee Center was buzzing on Friday night to a sold-out crowd. Parents and friends were beaming with pride in Old Town Alexandria watching their children showcase their talents in the annual ‘Night of the Stars’ performing arts event, hosted by the City of Alexandria Recreation Department. 180 students of Alexandria’s elementary and middle schools spent over three months perfecting their acts. These students are part of Out of School Time, an Alexandria City Public Schools after-school program.
“The Night of Stars is a talent show that provides an opportunity for youth and teens enrolled in the after-school program to take the stage and shine like the stars they are,” said Jamie Aylor, Recreation Program Coordinator of Youth Activities. “This performing arts event highlights singing, dancing, poetry, drama, and creative expression,” she added.
The auditorium was festooned with balloons, flowers, colorful signs, and sparkly tassels. As the crowd milled into the large venue, a DJ began belting out dance tunes, and strobe lights bounced off the walls. Metallic bunting rimmed the stage, shimmering and glinting in the bright lights. The raised platform was decorated with an ornate and dazzling backdrop.
Mistress of Ceremonies Brenda Holloway opened the evening extravaganza, getting the audience of 400 pumped with her lively welcome. The students then took to the stage, each school presenting an individual act. The girls and boys strutted across the expansive stage in a lavish display of dance, movement, song, poetry, and acting. The choreography, costumes, and props were impressive. It was clear these children and their instructors had poured countless hours into producing an elaborate theater production.
Midway through the show, as the audience waited for the next group to appear, MC Holloway asked everyone to get up on their feet. She then led the assembled crowd in a rousing dance number to the tune of Macarena. The hostess called on children in the audience to come up and dance with her as the DJ served up disco and contemporary dance renditions. Holloway’s energy was infectious. This was one festive happy crowd, all too eager to cheer their children on and dance the night away.
“It’s very exciting,” gushed an exhausted but beaming Jamie Aylor, after the show. “We love to highlight and showcase our kids, to have them put on their special talents, the dancing and singing. All the unique things that make them so special.”
“This is one of the highlights of the year,” Aylor declared. “In the future, we hope to plan for a bigger and better event, something like an arts festival, combined with a performing arts festival.”
Thirteen schools were represented in this ambitious composition. The after-school program is open to any child enrolled in Alexandria City Public Schools and is run by the city’s Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities.
“Recreation is a school without walls,” explained Randy Little, Division Chief for Recreation Services. “It’s an opportunity for children to learn and grow, a safe place to have fun and have a good time. It is very robust!”
Little added that the after-school program is also a boon for working parents who know their children are well taken care of between school dismissal and return home.
The children make friends, play, build, learn, and grow through a variety of recreation, enrichment and leisure activities. Out of School Time offers creative and performing arts, music, history, sports, fitness, health, family events, field trips, and homework time. The program meets 2:30-6 p.m. when ACPS schools are open, at locations all across Alexandria.