Samuel Black is nervous now, but he won’t be once he gets on stage.
At least, that’s what he keeps telling himself.
That cool confidence has taken the Berkeley High senior and accomplished performer and choreographer to the finals of the first annual Beach Blanket Babylon $10,000 Scholarship for the Arts.
Black was selected as one of three finalists in the dance portion of the Babylon competition after submitting a three-minute taped dance performaned to ‘You Are My Lucky Star.’
Eight other Bay Area high school seniors also made the cut and will compete live at Club Fugazi on June 10th for the scholarship.
One winner in each category — including dance, acting, and voice — will be presented a check for $10,000 for their college education. The competition is part of Beach Blanket Babylon’s first annual scholarship program dedicated to giving artistically gifted Bay Area high school seniors the opportunity to pursue a higher education.
According to Jo Schuman Silver, producer of Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon, the scholarship program hopes to give something back to the community. “Steve Silver always tried to help kids and give back to the community. This has been a dream of his,” said Schuman Silver.
For Black the competition will not be his first.
“I’ve always been into performing and dancing. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve wanted to make people laugh,” said Black.
Whether tap dancing on ‘Good Morning America,’ and ‘BayTV’ or choreographing dance shows at Berkeley High, Black says the stage is the place he wants to be.
“One of the things I love about performing is that once I’m on stage I feel like I’m on cruise control — I forget about being nervous, and I just enjoy it,” he added.
Though the talented senior has always been attracted to performing, finding a focus in dance has been the key to his success. Black credits the help of dance instructor Katie Maltsberger for her mentorship through the years.
“I definitely wouldn’t be in this competition if it wasn’t for her,” said Black.
Maltsberger, according to Black, has done much more than just share dance techniques at her El Cerrito studio. “We’ve built a relationship through the years and she’s let me know how to be in the business,” says Black.
Black also credits his parents for much of his success. “They’ve been nothing but supportive. I don’t think anyone knew what we were getting ourselves into with this competition, but they’ve always been there to drive me to auditions and to support me when I didn’t get an audition,” said Black.
Black says that growing up in the artistically diverse Bay Area also been an important part of his development as a performer.
The senior, who will attend the Conservatory of Dance at State University of New York at Purchase in the fall, lists Mikhail Baryshnikov as the one person he would most like to meet and also credits local performers Joanna Berman and Sascha Radetsky as significant influences.
Next Monday’s competition will include a performance by the cast of Beach Blanket Babylon, the internationally acclaimed musical revue, and also an appearance by San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. Brown will introduce a film clip detailing the history of the musical before the nine finalists compete for the scholarship.
According to Schuman Silver, hundreds of entries were submitted for the competition. “It wasn’t an easy task to narrow down the field. We looked at every tape over and over and didn’t look at the high schools before we selected the finalists,” said Schuman Silver.
Schuman Silver says the show, in its 28th year, has become a San Francisco institution due to the talent and flare of the performers. “Steve created the most perfect show. It’s visually great, the performers are amazingly talented and the show is so topical,” said Schuman Silver. She says that most audience members return two or three times annually to watch the show.
Black, a fan of Beach Blanket Babylon, says that now that he’s finished with finals he’s ready to perform. “I got my projects out of the way already and I’m really just coasting right now,” said Black.
Though he’s been rehearsing a tap dance number called ‘The Hoofer’ for Monday’s competition 3 to 4 times per week lately, Black added that having fun is the most important part. “If I’m up their having fun, that’ll show during the competition,” says Black.