‘A Christmas Carol’ Entertains Maryland Audiences

During the 2013 holiday season, audiences continued to delight in Hope Garden Children Ballet Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”  They also enjoyed some new artistic scenes in this annual retelling of the classic tale by Charles Dickens, which shows how a miserly Ebenezer Scrooge comes to again believe in Christmas after being visited by three spirits. Some 80 students of the Hope Garden Ballet Academy took part in this original ballet by artistic director and choreographer Fran Ichijo, set to the stirring music of Claude Debussy. 

During the performances, ballet goers were instantly transported to 19th-century London with a large backdrop showing the city in winter. This year Scrooge was played by a newcomer to Hope Garden productions, Josh Snyder, who not only captured the spirit of Scrooge, but displayed great grace and athleticism in numerous lifts with the dancers. In one of the first scenes, he delights the audience as he counts his money, portrayed here by a group of dancers dressed in gold, who enter on stage in a giant money bag and then swirl around Scrooge as he kicks up his heels. 

Dickens often expresses his sympathy for the poor and impoverished in his writings, and this year’s production highlighted this aspect. The town scene includes an interesting play between ladies of the night and a London bobby, as well as starving orphans begging for food. This year also included an expanded scene of gypsies and orphans, which showcased the intersection of gymnastics and ballet, with the dancers dazzling the crowds with acrobatic feats, including cartwheels, splits, back flips and human pyramids. 

Act II brought the focus back on the traditional, with the wonderful Fezziwig party scene. Here, the adults enjoy ballroom-style dancing, while the younger children step up the tempo. Two boys battle for the affection of a pretty girl, while the young cousins take their turn to leap in the spotlight. And then to the delight of the audience, younger dances dressed as gingerbread cookies and peppermints fill the stage to the amusement of the partygoers.  During the party, the young Scrooge proposes to Isabel, Fezziwig’s daughter, performed by Kimora Maier, and the two enjoy a moving, romantic dance. The scene is capped off by a swirling, circular dance finale with all on stage. 

Throughout the play, the three spirits steer Scrooge through his past, present and future. Each of these spirits are brilliantly played by Olivia Romano (past), Hannah Wills (present), and Lillian St. Claire Jones (future).

The spritely Chirstmas Past, dressed in white, pushes and pulls a reluctant Scrooge to confront his past, in which the Golden Idol lures him away from his new fiance. The mischievous Christmas Present, dressed in red, rouses Scrooge from his sleep, spins him around in chair, and directs him to look at the Cratchit household, where they enjoy a simple but joyful dinner. And the haunting figure of Christmas Future, portrayed in all black, ominously reveals a dark future that Scrooge would likely face – a somber Cratchit kneeling at the grave of tiny Tim and Scrooge’s own grave stone with his name in flashing lights. 

Act II also brings the focus back on classical ballet, with the dancers performing the Colors of Christmas. Holly, Gold Star, Evergreen and Mistletoe dance in this scene along with red and pink poinsettias. White, Candy Canes, and Silver also deliver wonderful performances, all as Scrooge watches on, contemplating the meaning of Christmas. The audiences especially delighted in these displays of beauty and mastery, made possible by the fact that HGBA students have grown in number and age. 

The pageantry of performances on display at “A Christmas Carol” creates a fantastic holiday experience that audiences can enjoy every year. And every year brings something new for audiences as well, as Artistic Director Fran Ichijo continues to deliver her deep and meaningful interpretations of the story through dance.

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