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Meramec dance troupe sets its sights on performing in '42nd Street' at Muny


Bonnie Kleyboecker took a gamble last spring when she wrote a letter to the producers of the Muny inquiring whether they might like to use her tap class in one of their summer productions.

Much to her surprise, that gamble reaped results. Kleyboecker of Crestwood, who teaches dance through the Continuing Education Office at St. Louis Community College-Meramec, learned in May that her troupe — whose 13 members range in age from 24 to 74 — would appear in two numbers in "42nd Street,'' which opens Monday, Aug. 9, at the Muny at Forest Park. In June she attended a rehearsal of the dances by the teen-agers in the cast to learn the routines.

That, Kleyboecker said, was a little daunting, according to a Meramec news release.

"I'll tell you, watching those teen-agers dance made me feel like an old, old lady," stated Kleyboecker, who will turn 65 in September. "They're so fast and full of energy. It was all I could do to keep up as I wrote all the steps down."

Kleyboecker wasted no time getting her group together for their own rehearsals.

They've been meeting three times a week to practice at dancer Jenny Kausch's home in Sappington since early June. And if mastering the intricate routines isn't challenging enough, they also have to learn to beat the St. Louis heat. To get everybody properly conditioned, Kleyboecker makes them practice outside.

Kleyboecker has more than 30 years of teaching dance, first through the continuing education program in the Lindbergh School District and then at Meramec. Some of her current students have been with her for nearly 20 years.

The group could be cut from the show at any time — it's all up to the choreographer and the producers, according to Kleyboecker. A midnight rehearsal is scheduled for Saturday Aug. 7 — the group's only chance to practice with the entire cast and with the orchestra before opening night. But if they're not good enough, they could be cut.

"My biggest concern is keeping up with those kids," Kleyboecker stated. "We're in the opening number, '42nd Street,' which is nearly four minutes long and technically rough, not to mention very fast. But everybody's been working really hard, and they all want to do this very badly. We may all have something hurting, but we're very determined."

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