Annual program starts the season with poise, grace
Artist director Lisa Racina is excited about her company’s holiday tradition this year.
A Gift for Emma, the locally produced companion piece to The Nutcracker by the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas, 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 Latin Grammy Awards under his belt.
Racina said another sign of growth for the traditions has been the initiative of her “big girls,” or 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 four years old. They’ve watched it over and over. They know all these parts. They love all these parts.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org