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Ghostly holiday treat keeps kids on their toes

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

West Jefferson Elementary students were given a special holiday treat on Friday: They attended the performance of a new Christmas play in ballet form.

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Peak Academy of Dance, which is a five-minute walk from the school, performed “A Christmas Eve Ghost Story” for the students.

The story is written by Danielle Heller, owner of the dance studio, and is being published this year. In a strange twist, she wrote the book to fulfill her need for a new show that dancers at the studio could perform for the holidays.

She said the studio has done “The Nutcracker” for years, and she was looking for something new and fresh. She wound up writing the book with a cadence similar to “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and then chose classical music to choreograph the ballet with help from some of the instructors at the dance studio.

The 30 dancers in the show, who come from the foothills and down the hill, range in age from 6 to 18. They pirouetted, pliéd and chasséd around the stage to the delight of the elementary school students.

The story is set in the 1950s, when a brother and sister get lost in a blizzard on Christmas Eve. They make their way to a mansion and join in the holiday festivities. Eventually they return home, only to learn that the mansion had burned in the 1880s, so they had actually visited a ghost house.

To help viewers, especially children, understand the story, there’s narration throughout the show to explain the plot.

The classical music in the show was composed by Franz Xaver Scharwenka, a German-Polish composer during the Victorian era.

During a short intermission, Heller asked students in the audience if they had ever seen a ballet, and more than half said yes. That may be in part because her studio has provided performances for the school for several years.

“It really made me recognize very clearly that it’s important to be able to provide something like this,” Heller said. “Hopefully I’m helping to educate the larger population on enjoying the arts.”

West Jeff fifth-graders, as they walked back to school, said they enjoyed the performance.

“I thought it was great,” said fifth-grader Alyson Meyers. “It had great music and choreography.”

Student Diana Toure enjoyed the ghost couples dancing during the Christmas Eve party.

Fifth-grader Shawn Tennyson said the show was cool but creepy because a ghost girl waves from a window, beckoning the children to enter the mansion and then waving goodbye as the children leave for home.

The performers say they were honored to be in the premiere of the new show.

Seventh-grader Isabel Cloutier is glad she is part of the show. She said she watched shows at the studio when she was younger.

Eighth-grader Isabella Cousineau said it was challenging to portray a character for the first time.

“If the performance is based off a movie, I can watch it and study the character,” she said.

“It was really an honor,” said junior Juliet Johnson, who plays the ghost mom. “In future years, when they think of the choreography, they’ll think of us. The choreography was made for us; we’re the original cast. We’re leaving our own mark.”

Contact Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1041. Check www.CanyonCourier.com for updates and breaking news.