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Star on the Rise

Westfield High Teen Acts in Debbie Allen's "Brothers of the Knight"

Charlene Hoffman — remember that name! Hoffman is headed for the big time — with her sights set on Broadway. There is no doubt this spunky Centreville 15-year-old will someday achieve her goals, with her tremendous drive, sparkling smile, and dancing talent.

She is now appearing in the limited engagement musical, "Brothers of the Knight," at The Kennedy Center, April 4-13.

The award-winning talent Debbie Allen cast Hoffman amongst 600 auditioners as a "little sister" in the original musical production of "Brothers of the Knight." That was five years ago, when Hoffman was only 10. Now she has chosen Hoffman to come back again as an older "sister" in the current rendition, brought back by popular demand.

Allen, 53, was a driving force behind such Broadway, movie and television hits as "Fame," "Amistad," "West Side Story," and numerous other productions. She currently resides with her family in Los Angeles.

"Brothers of the Knight" is a hip adaptation of the Brothers Grimm classic tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." It was conceived, written, choreographed and directed by Debbie Allen with music co-composed and co-written by Grammy Award winner James Ingram and Allen. The production also stars Allen as Sunday the housekeeper, Ingram as Rev. Knight and features a cast of 42 Washington-area young people.

"I CHOSE CHARLENE because she is very beautiful, with long legs, but mostly because of her great confidence, and her sense of self. In a line of 20 children, you could see the light was on with her," said Allen. "Charlene continues to grow as a dancer and an artist, developing her technique, and becoming one of the main leading ladies in the show."

"My hope in making shows for and involving children is that we are creating many generations who love performing art. Whether they grow up to be dancers or set designers or football stars or computer geniuses, it is great for kids to see themselves on stage," said Allen.

Hoffman has appeared in several of Allen's Kennedy Center productions, including "Pearl," "Dreams," and "Soul Possessed." She has also danced with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago in its production of "The Nutcracker" and at The International Children's Festival at Wolftrap.

"Brothers of the Knight," set in New York City, recounts the adventures of the young Knight brothers who are forbidden to dance by their father, a strict preacher. Despite their father's rule, the boys sneak out every evening to dance the night away with "the sisters" in Harlem. Their housekeeper Sunday is baffled by the torn up shoes that appear by the brother's beds each morning. One night, she secretly sets out to solve the mystery, discovering the brothers' many talents in ballet, swing, hip-hop, slide, tap and step.

ECHOING THE PLAY, dance is a calling for Hoffman. "While some other dancers may remark about the long hours of rehearsal, I love what I do," says Hoffman, a resident of Centreville's Newgate community.

"Debbie Allen and James Ingram are always lively and very comedic. They always make you happy," said Hoffman.

Ms. Allen, who is planning an "American Idol"-style show, reminiscent of "Fame," plans to keep in touch with Hoffman for future performances.

Hoffman is devoted to perfecting her talents. In a typical week, she studies three to four hours of ballet/pointe, two hours of jazz, one and a half hours of tap, and one hour of Broadway jazz at The Center of Ballet Arts, Dancesations Dance Center of Alexandria, and the Worldgate Studio of Dance. Recently, she has been rehearsing six days a week for "Brothers of the Knight."

Last summer she was chosen as a Dance Spirit Future Star, and a member of the Jr. American Dance Team that will be performing at the Prague Festival in the Czech Republic. She will travel to New York City as a Teen Outstanding Dancer with New York City Dance Alliance.

"'Fame' inspired me to be a dancer," says Hoffman. "It looked very exciting to go to a performing arts high school."

AT WESTFIELD, she has worked hard to balance her dancing with her school work and social life. "It's difficult not to be able to hang out with my friends as much as I'd like, but they understand what I'm doing."

"I fully support Charlene to achieve her dreams, whether they take her to LA, NY, wherever. We could see Charlene loved to dance when I first enrolled her in movement classes through Fairfax County at the age of 4," says Charlene's mother, Sandra Hoffman. She is a Centreville homemaker and accountant for the family business, Raymond's Brickwashing. Her mother hopes that Charlene will attend a college specializing in the performing arts, such as the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

Charlene Hoffman's advice for other young aspiring stars: "Keep training and working at it. You can't just go through the motions. Make sure you love what you do!"