Irontonian#039;s dance work is #039;Beauty#039;

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 30, 2005

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Next month, thousands will relax under the stars at the Ritter Park Amphitheater and watch "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" brought to life on the Huntington Outdoor Theatre stage.

Somewhere in the crowd will probably be Ironton resident Patty Freeman, the choreographer who helped bring the classic story to life.

It's a film that most of the audience will have seen, so they'll constantly be comparing Freeman's work to the film that's firmly ingrained in their minds.

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"That's a challenge, but a unique one," Freeman said. "To put together something that's going to be entertaining, helping develop the magic of the story. It's a challenge, but it's one that I enjoy.

Though it may be a daunting task, Freeman has a load of experience to back her up. It's not only her fifth year with Huntington Outdoor Theatre but she has more than 30 years of experience as a choreographer.

Throughout the years, one of Freeman's greatest pleasures has been in taking people who are non-dancers, and showing them how to get down.

"There people out there that say 'I can't dance,' and I tell them I'm there to make them have 'happy feet,' so they can just dance away," Freeman said.

Not one to strive for the spotlight, she said the best thing about choreography

is helping others to become better dancers or discover something about themselves.

"The thing that I like most about it is the enjoyment that I see people receiving from growing, and having fun doing it," Freeman said.

"Disney's Beauty and the Beast" director Helen Freeman may not be related to Patty, but she said that the two are "kindred spirits."

"There's a difference between a dance teacher and a choreographer," said Helen Freeman. "It's somebody who has to really feel the show to know the sense of a scene the author wants to get across. She does that, she really feels the show."

As if choreographing the main-stage show wasn't enough, Freeman has also put together a children's pre-show called "Disney Princesses and Friends."

When she's not dancing up a storm with Huntington Outdoor Theatre and other theatrical organizations, Freeman works as a school teacher for Kingsbury Elementary and also choreographs flag corps and majorettes for local marching bands.

Local theatre fans may have recently seen Freeman's choreography in Ironton High School's production of "Damn Yankees."

"Disney's Beauty and the Beast" will be presented at 8:30 p.m. with the pre-show starting at 7 p.m. on the second through fifth weekends in July, Friday through Saturday.

More information is available by calling Patti Shaver at (304) 523-8080.