The 7-year-olds scramble to form a circle in the middle of the studio floor, waiting for Louis Armstrong’s “The Bare Necessities” to come over the speakers.
Matassa, practicing his best bear face, is one of only 10 boys in the cast of 84 for the show, which pairs youngsters and company performers in dance numbers set to past and present popular tunes.
The production features choreography by the dance company’s artistic director Garland Wilson and company members to songs by such artists as Brenda Lee, Danny Kay, Dean Martin, Dinah Washington, Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Ike & Tina Turner, Judy Garland, The Miracles, Nancy Sinatra, Natalie Cole, Otis Redding, Peggy Lee, Pérez Prado and Ray Charles,
“We always keep the music fun for this show,” Wilson says. “And we keep it happy.”
Wilson scrapped the company’s annual Christmas show in 2009 to stage the first “Kick It Out” in January 2010, saying people would be looking for something fun to do after the holidays. “Kick It Out” was an instant hit with audiences, and has since been expanded from one to three performances.
Of Moving Colors begins the production with a call for young dancers in early fall. All youngsters ages 5 to 18 are eligible to sign up, and those who can’t afford the $175 tuition can apply for scholarships offered by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, the Lamar Foundation and La Capitale Links.
“We’ve had some kids who are in their fourth or fifth ‘Kick It Out,’” Wilson says. “They not only have fun, but they form friendships while they’re here. That’s so good to see.”
Company dancer Courtney Landry hopes the young dancers get something else out of the show.
“I’m hoping the show has inspired some of them to start taking dance classes,” she says. “I work with the middle school and high school dancers, and some come in with no dance experience at all. They catch on, and they really give great performances.”
Wilson says the shows has 32 dance numbers, consolidated into three sections.
“We’ll be going from wearing sequins in Judy Garland’s ‘That’s Entertainment,’ to baseball jerseys in the second act,” Garland says. “The prop list alone for this show is huge. And gathering the props is one of the most fun parts for this show.”