Young dancers tell the nativity story - Albuquerque Journal

Young dancers tell the nativity story

The Performers Ballet and Jazz Company presents its traditional Christmas show next weekend.
The Performers Ballet and Jazz Company presents its traditional Christmas show next weekend.

It takes 68 dancers from The Performers Ballet and Jazz Company and 100 volunteers close to a year to put together the company’s annual “Christmas Joy” show. This year’s event, which takes place next weekend at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, features dancers as young as 5 telling the nativity story through ballet and jazz set to Christmas music.

Two professional dancers, Natalee Maxwell and Shane Montoya, star as Mary and Joseph.

“Natalee is an alum of our company,” said artistic director Wendy Miner. “Shane is new to us. He teaches at studios in the Albuquerque area.”

All of the student dancers, with the exception of Miner’s 7-year-old son Landon Miner, are girls. The youngest ones are cast as angels. Older girls are given more substantial roles. Dancers are required to audition for “Christmas Joy.” Once accepted, they commit to dancing for several hours a day, six days a week, for more than four months before the show.

“Every dancer has to study classical ballet,” said Miner. “Some of them are better at ballet than jazz, while others are naturally better jazz dancers. My goal is to expand every dancer’s abilities by challenging them to grow as both ballet and jazz dancers.”

When Miner became the company’s artistic director eight years ago she began making choreographic changes to “Christmas Joy,” which has been an Albuquerque tradition for 29 years. The movements in “Christmas Joy” are a combination of Miner’s steps and the work of the company’s previous choreographer Lynn Crawford Cox. Cox, who is the school director of the Marin Dance Theater in California, has maintained close ties with the company and choreographed two new dances for this year’s show.

Costumes are an important part of the show. Parents of dancers and community members help Miner repair older costumes and sew new ones. The show’s familiar backdrop has been a staple for the “Christmas Joy” performance for many years.

The Performers Ballet and Jazz Company is a preprofessional dance company with the mission of providing training and performance opportunities to young dancers. The company, which was founded by Karen Alwin, trains children up through high school.

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