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Courtesy photo - Bruce Davis

The stuff of dreams

Profile image for By Lucinda Breeding / Staff Writer
By Lucinda Breeding / Staff Writer
Former Denton dance teacher Chris Koehl returns to reprise his role as a toy robot in A Gift for Emma.Courtesy photo - Bruce Davis
Former Denton dance teacher Chris Koehl returns to reprise his role as a toy robot in A Gift for Emma.
Courtesy photo - Bruce Davis

Local holiday staple ‘Emma’ spins fanciful story in dance

Artist director Lisa Racina is excited about her company’s holiday tradition this year.

A Gift for Emma — a locally produced show that’s something of a companion piece to the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas’ The Nutcracker — has reached a certain point of artistic maturity.

“Denton City Contemporary Ballet has become a strong ensemble,” said Racina, who culls company dancers from students at her Denton Dance Conservatory as well as from the broader North Texas dance scene. “When they perform ballet, they look like ballerinas. When they’re doing contemporary dance, they look like contemporary dancers. It’s the same with hip-hop and jazz.”

A Gift for Emma follows the journey of a young street urchin who seeks out a dance studio for warmth and then falls asleep. In her dreams, she goes under the sea, takes a spin with toys and meets a pair of divinely refined dancers. When Emma wakes up, she’s received the gift of dance. 

The holiday dance show has three performances this weekend.

The holiday started as a way to show families what their young dancers had learned in their dance classes at Denton Dance Conservatory, the home studio of Denton Contemporary City Ballet and Denton City Youth Ballet. Unlike the typical recital, though, Emma would engage the audience with a story while showing how dance students were developing.

The students and emerging dancers share the stage with professional and pre-professional dancers. This year, former Denton Dance Conservatory teacher Chris Koehl returns to perform the part of the toy robot.

Koehl was a finalist on the popular television dance contest So You Think You Can Dance, and now has commercials and a number at the Billboard Mexican Music Awards show under his belt.

Racina said another sign of growth for the traditions has been the initiative of her “big girls” — the teenagers who have studied under “Miss Lisa” since they were tots.

“I’ll be working on choreography with my little girls and my big girls will correct my choreography,” Racina said. “I’ll be working and I’ll hear ‘No, Miss Lisa, you did this!’ and then they’ll show me. I’ll ask them, ‘How did you know that?’ Well, they watch the video. They’ve watched the video of the performance they did when they were 4 years old. They’ve watched it over and over. They know all these parts. They love all these parts.”



What: A holiday fantasia in dance, presented by Denton City Contemporary Ballet, Denton Youth City Ballet and students of Denton Dance Conservatory

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Krum High School auditorium, 811 E. McCart St.

Details: Tickets cost $12 to $18. For reservations, visit