Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 4, 2009

Video: 'A Christmas Fantasy' set

Ashland Youth Ballet celebrates 20 years

Lee Ward/The Independent

Ashland — This is the 20th year of Ashland Youth Ballet and to celebrate that milestone, the group has changed its Christmas program.

The ballet will present “A Christmas Fantasy” at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Paramount Arts Center. “A Christmas Fantasy” is the first holiday show performed by Ashland Youth Ballet, director Maria Whaley said. But more recently, “The Nutcracker” has become the usual holiday show.

Whaley said audience members who love “The Nutcracker” won’t be disappointed.

“The first act consists of a collage of the traditional,” she said. “‘The Nutcracker’ heads the bill. That will be act one — a compilation of Clara’s dream. It won’t be the full act, but it will be highlights from Clara’s memory, so to speak, as she builds the story for the audience. Then, we will go into the complete journey through the pine forest.”

Whaley said the first act will include 25 company members and an open audition cast of 40 extra dancers.

“That is unique to the show,” she said. “We typically don’t have that many open cast members.” She said the last time that happened was in 2007 when Russian dancers joined the Ashland Youth Ballet in “The Nutcracker.”

In the second act of this year’s show, the junior company will present “’Twas the Night,” which is based on Clement C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas.”

Whaley describes the performance: “Santa visits the home and reindeer pull him across the stage. He enters the home and brings the toys to life as Momma and Poppa prepare the children for bed after the evening’s festivities.”

Finally, the company will present “The Little Snow Child,” a Russian folk tale about a barren couple.

“The husband wants to give (his wife) a child so desperately that he builds a little girl of snow,” Whaley explained. “The mother loves the child so much, she comes to life. It’s a very touching story of the power of love and how sometimes, parents have to be able to let go in order to love them best.” The dance is accompanied by contemporary music by the Transiberian Orchestra.

Whaley said her dancers weren’t disappointed that the holiday should would be different this year.

“Really and truly, we try to switch back and forth, just to give them variety,” she said. “If any of these kids would have aspirations of being professional dancers, they’ll have to adapt to varying styles and they’ll need a good, solid foundation with any differing styles.”

She said in addition, the more modern music is fun and the entire cast will dance in the opening, which is from “The Nutcracker.”

She said she also realizes the public looks forward to “The Nutcracker” each year.

“We feel obligated to do it,” she said. “There are area residents who make that a part of their holiday tradition, so not doing it would be not fulfilling our mission.”

Courtney May is assistant director and choreographer; May’s mother has contributed by making some costumes. Whaley said the ballet also owes a debt to Ashland resident Margaret Adkins.

“Contributions and grants exist, but (Adkins) is a major contributor for costumes for the past two years,” Whaley said, adding one costume can cost $1,000. She said her goal is for everything, including costumes, to be top of the line.

“This is beyond an end-of-year recital,” she said. “It’s a step above. It needs to be artistically and aesthetically correct.”

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.