Libertyville Dancers Bound for Broadway

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Byline: J. Hope Babowice Daily Herald Correspondent

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CORRECTION/date 11-17-1999: To correct a story in some editions, Tap Jam 1999, the show put on by the Footprints Tap Ensemble dancers, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Libertyville High School.

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Sarah Cook's clear blue eyes focus on the precision movements of the Footprints Tap Ensemble dancers as they shuffle and slide through "Sandman."

At the start of the three-hour rehearsal in Libertyville, the founder and director of the 5-year-old dance group senses the girls are upbeat and excited.

Later this month, 29 members of Footprints and Footprints II will be Broadway-bound, performing at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and opening night of "The Nutcracker On Broadway" at The Manhattan Center's Oscar Hammerstein Grand Ballroom Theater Nov. 26.

The dancers, ages 9 to 19, will leave for New York Nov. 24 and begin final preparations for two performances. Their piece, "Tin Soldier" in the play's Act I, will be danced along 2 1/2 miles of the parade route on Thanksgiving Day. A second version will be presented on the Broadway stage the next night.

Cook's group will be the only one performing in "The Nutcracker" that will choreograph its own work. Although Footprints will perform for just one night, the show is planned for a two-week run. It will feature 150 dancers and a new supporting cast each night. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch will play the role of the grandfather.

"It's eye-opening, all the top performers who will be watching us in New York," said Katie Budris of Libertyville, 17, a senior at Carmel High School and assistant director of the dance ensemble. "Knowing that makes us all work harder."

At just 25, Cook has the poise, determination and skill of the dance masters she emulates.

One of those masters, Ayodele Casel, a principle dancer in Savion Glover's Manhattan-based troupe called the NOTS or Not Your Ordinary Tappers, will perform at Footprints' Tap Jam at 7:30 p.m. today at Libertyville High School. …