Sierra Academy of Dance brings back Christmas Nativity Ballet

Sierra Academy of Dance brings back Christmas Nativity BalletBy LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

After being sidelined by earthquakes and a pandemic, Sierra Academy of Dance (Academy) celebrates the 25th Anniversary of producing The Nativity Ballet by returning to the stage at a new venue. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church) at 1031 S. Norma Street provides the stage for four performances: Friday and Saturdays, December 10, 11, 17, and 18 at 6:30pm. This is a free community event; however, it is also a canned food drive to benefit local charitable institutions: The Salvation Army, Grace Care Center, All Souls Food Pantry and St. Anne’s Food Pantry.

“Our church is really big on community outreach,” says Stacey Jensen, a church member and a dancer in the ballet.

Dancing with the Academy has been a family affair for over 10 years for the Jensens. Her entire family is involved in this production. Her daughter, Kirsten, 16 dances the role of Mary, entirely en pointe. Sam, 13, will run the lights; Timmy, 11, dances the role of Herod; Maren, 9, dances a star; Ruth, 6, is a lamb. Her oldest son, Danny, is away at college but he helped stage and choreograph almost all of Mary and Joseph’s pieces. Also in the mix is John, the father of the family, who will open the show with song and a reading of scriptures (and anything else that needs to be done!)

Stacey dances the role of Elizabeth, Mary’s elderly aunt, in a scene where Mary goes to her for advice when she learns she is pregnant. “I am really excited to be able to have this opportunity to do this duet with my daughter. It’s a beautiful part of the story and I think doing this will create lovely memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life. As kids grow up, they’re not always around. So I am really excited to have this dance to always share with her.

I think it’s kind of a unique thing that you have super young and then you have older people like me, who love to dance still.” says Jensen of the Academy’s productions. “It’s great. I feel like it’s a good way to build our family relationships, too; we can all do this together. So it’s fun.”

Twenty-five years ago The Nativity was the first ballet production presented by the Academy. Cate De Min, Artistic Director tells us, “The first production was in 1995 and we were at Parker Performing Arts Center (PPAC). The Parkers oversaw everything.” Over the ensuing years the Academy and PPAC worked together to present ballets. The PPAC provided the stage and the technical crews, the Academy produced the shows. The Nativity grew into an annual tradition, “I totally loved bringing a sacred story into a secular setting,” says De Min. Then came earthquakes, COVID, and changes in theater classes. When De Min approached the Church about using their space, they willingly agreed and the holiday tradition continues: the story of The Nativity presented through the art of ballet.

The ballet starts with the angels in heaven and takes us through Gabriel’s visits, Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem, shepherds and sheep, three kings and soldiers and King Herod. Jensen says, “The whole show is beautiful.” De Min is known for her ability to paint the stage with coordinated costumes with props and dancers taught to express the choreography.

Laura Austin Photo: The Jensen Family in rehearsal for The Nativity Ballet, LtoR Maren, Timmy, Ruth, Kirsten and Stacey.

Story First Published: 2021-11-19