While the professional dancers of State Street Ballet will be in the midst of a three-week tour of “The Nutcracker” before returning to perform the Christmas classic in Santa Barbara, dancers from the company’s school Gustafson Dance will twice perform another holiday favorite. On December 7, around 200 Gustafson Dance students will stage two performances of “Rudolph” on the stage of the Lobero Theatre. Helmed by Gustafson Dance director Allison Gustafson and based on the original story by Robert L. May, the show will feature the school’s most advanced ballet dancers as well as its jazz and tap students. In an interview with the News-Press, Ms. Gustafson said the performance of “Rudolph” and its story’s timeless moral will be an enjoyable kick off to the holiday season.
“I think it’s a nice intro in to the holiday season and has a nice message to not judge others by their appearance,” she said.
For twelve years now, Gustafson Dance has produced the “Rudolph” show as a way of featuring its tap dancing and jazz students in a holiday-themed program, as “The Nutcracker” is exclusively a ballet. However, “Rudolph” does include the school’s most advanced ballerinas, some who will also dance alongside the pros in “The Nutcracker,” as well as ballet dancers who are too young to perform in “The Nutcracker.” With each year’s performance, Ms. Gustafson makes adjustments to the show to keep it fresh. This year, the most noticeable addition will be a section of tap dancing penguins who welcome Rudolph and his friends to the Land of Misfit Toys. This section of the show will be done to music from the 2006 animated film “Happy Feet,” while the remainder of the performance will be to an array of jazz, classical, and pop music, as well as songs from the 1964 Rankin/Bass television special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
According to assistant director Nicole Comella the show tells a similar story as the one in the TV special, with the Land of Misfit Toys and the Abominable Snow Monster, but changes a few details. Whereas in the TV special the Abominable Snow Monster is angry because of a toothache, in Gustafson Dance’s production he’s upset because he can’t dance. By the end of the story, the monster learns to dance when Rudolph’s elf friend Heidi teaches him.
Similar to Ms. Gustafson, Ms. Comella anticipates their dance school’s production will serve as “a fun and sweet way to enter the holiday season” and a reminder of the story’s message of accepting others for their differences. When audiences leave the Lobero after the show, she hopes they walk away with a “a sense of belonging” and feeling “that the moral of the story can be renewed.”
Tickets for Gustafson Dance’s December 7 production of “Rudolph” can be purchased online at lobero.org. The first performance begins at 2:00 p.m., with the second starting at 6:00 p.m. The Lobero Theatre is located at 33 E. Canon Perdido St.