Rising Stars

These four talented performers are wowing audiences and making names for themselves in music, theater, and dance.

By: Leslie Milk

Sharna Fabiano combines tango with modern dance to form a style she calls “downtown dance.” Photograph of Fabiano by Tanit Sakakini.

Sharna Fabiano

Tango with a twist

This is how Sharna Fabiano learned to tango: A friend took her into a corner and said, “I need you to give me a hug. Now give me your right hand. Now we walk.”

“There is no basic step in the tango,” Fabiano says. “You have to find the flow down deep and learn to walk together.”

Fabiano, 32, has been dancing all of her life. When she was a child living in a small town in Vermont, her mother drove her 40 minutes each way to ballet classes. At Hobart and William Smith Colleges, she switched to modern dance. A semester abroad introduced her to ballroom dancing. She began salsa and swing dancing, and then her swing friends took her to a tango event where one of them offered a two-minute lesson. Fabiano was hooked.

Two years ago, she formed her own dance company, combining tango with modern dance. This year, she was named one of 25 dancers to watch by Dance magazine.

With her DC-based company, Fabiano transcends what one critic called “the slicked back, tricked-up” traditional tango to create a new form of “downtown dance.”

Sharna Fabiano Tango Company performs October 25 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. 

Joshua Coyne

A violin prodigy and regular kid

Violinist and composer Joshua Coyne has been a soloist at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Theatre J, embassies, music festivals, even political rallies. He’s performed before Itzhak Perlman and Marvin Hamlisch. He’s been asked to compose a score for a play written by Janet Langhart Cohen, wife of former Defense secretary William Cohen.

Not bad for a 15-year-old, especially one who started life as a battered child.

When Josh was adopted by Jane Coyne in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the two-year-old was in a full body cast; his foster mother had broken his legs in 18 places and dislocated his hips and knees.

Jane Coyne, a former singer with ties to the Cedar Rapids Symphony, took Josh to a concert soon after adopting him. He was transfixed; at age four, he started playing violin. The Coynes moved to Potomac two years ago to expand Josh’s musical opportunities. He takes private lessons in Bethesda as well as classes at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. This year Hamlisch, who has been a mentor to Coyne, plans to feature him in a performance with one of the five symphony orchestras where he guest-conducts.

Most prodigies such as Coyne are home-schooled so they can concentrate on their music. Not Josh. He gets up to practice at 4 or 5 am, but he’s a sophomore at Winston Churchill High School and a surprisingly regular kid. He even has a part in the school musical, Rent, this fall.

Coyne performs with the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra’s Philharmonic December 14 at the Music Center at Strathmore.

Mariana Olaizola

Double threat

Mariana Olaizola, 17, is about to make a tough choice.

In her native Venezuela, Olaizola began studying music and dance at age five. Peter Jablow, head of the Levine School of Music, calls her “a stunningly good piano student” who won every piano competition she ever entered at the school and many others outside of it. She soloed with the South Carolina Orchestra and at Carnegie Hall at the American Fine Arts Festival. At the same time, Olaizola has been a serious student of ballet. She danced the lead role, Clara, in the Washington Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker.

Olaizola realizes she can’t pursue both of her passions. She says she’ll never want to stop dancing, but she plans to concentrate on piano after she graduates from Bethesda’s Walt Whitman High School this year. She’d like to do a double major in music and environmental science.

She enjoys every step of piano playing. “When you first start a piece, you’re discovering so many things,” she says. “When you get near a performance, you’re worried about the technical part. But when I know a piece well, I’m going to just listen to the sound and try to enjoy the moment.”

Olaizola performs in a master class, open to the public, March 9 at the Music Center at Strathmore.

Jobari Parker-Namdar

An impressive debut

The first time he sang onstage, Jobari Parker-Namdar was in fifth grade at Chevy Chase Elementary School. The next time, he sang an operatic aria in a recital at DC’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts. The 22-year-old Howard University junior has been center stage ever since.

Last spring, his performance in The Stephen Schwartz Project at MetroStagewas deemed one of the “most auspicious debuts” of the theater season by Washington Post critic Peter Marks.

A music and theater major, Parker-Namdar also sings in concert with his mother, Pam Parker. The duo has appeared at Blues Alley and Signature Theatre’s cabaret.

What he loves best about performing is the storytelling and the way singing transforms him: “You start to breathe differently, your body moves differently, you are totally alive in the moment.”

Parker-Namdar will appear in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown at Adventure Theatre June 26 through August 8.

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