If you want to completely capture the attention of a large auditorium filled with school children, hire Sheran Goodspeed Keyton to kick things off. Better known for performing with Jubilee Theatre or her own DVA Productions, Keyton has the pipes to enthrall all ages and commands attention when she’s speaking.
On Friday afternoon, she had the audience at Will Rogers Auditorium — filled mostly with elementary-aged children on field trips — laughing, singing and enjoying as the warm-up act to Ballet Concerto’s annual Christmastime program, “A Holiday Special.” The show was to be repeated Friday night for the general public. The school performances of this program are always slightly abbreviated.
Of course, the dancers didn’t do a bad job of keeping the kids’ attention, either.
It began with Margo Dean’s simple Winter Wonderland (restaged by Webster Dean), which features two couples in pas de deux, demonstrating basic ballet form and lifts in an easy-breezy dance. Shannon and Christa Beacham and Ruben Gerding and Caradee Cline were delightful.
Then tap dancers from Arts Fifth Avenue took the stage. Choreographed by Gracey Tune, Yule Rock featured one performer dressed as Santa and three others as elves. Footwork was occasionally sloppy, but the performance was spirited.
The late Christine Hay’s The Princess and the Magical Christmas Star (restaged and directed by Webster Dean) uses music by Dvořák and Grieg and takes cues from various holiday folktales and legends (with a few Nutcracker similarities). Set in three big acts, each of which requires backdrop and scene changes, the lavish work is filled with fairytale costumes for members of the royal court, and in the forest scene, delightful animals, played by children and older dancers.
The storyline is easy to follow, and although there are few big showy ballet moves that audiences love most about story ballets, it’s enough to hold the attention of young and older audiences. As the Princess, Lea Zablocki is delicate and technically strong. Point work wavered here and there, but as with this Ballet Concerto program every year, it’s enough to inspire at least a few kids to try out some ballet classes. Maybe even some of the boys.
Next year, Margo and Webster, be sure and hire Keyton again.