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Holiday classics: Newton Arts Association serves up two favorites

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Looking for a way to get into the spirit of the season? The Arts Association in Newton County is serving up two holiday family favorites in the coming weeks -- "The Nutcracker" ballet and "Christmas in Covington."

In its ninth year, the Covington Regional Ballet's performance of "Nutcracker" will appear on the stage in Newton High School's Porter Hall at 7 p.m. Saturday and at 3 p.m. Dec. 5 The show features about 60 youth from Rockdale, Newton, Henry and surrounding counties in secondary and lead roles, as well as professional dancers from as far away as Texas.

Covington Regional Ballet Director Jamie Robtison said that while the ballet itself doesn't change from year to year, some adjustments are made in choreography and costuming to suit the different body types of the dancers.

Personalities of the dancers also make each year's performance unique.

"It's different every year because the kids are different," said Robtison. "Depending on who's cast as the rats, some of them are quite comical and some of them are creepy, so it does change."

Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote the music to "The Nutcracker" ballet in 1891. Based on the E.T.A. Hoffman story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice," "The Nutcracker" is the tale of young girl, Clara, who gets a nutcracker soldier on Christmas Eve and that evening dreams the soldier must battle the evil Mouse King.

With the help of the girl, the soldier wins and turns into a prince. The prince leads the girl to an enchanted land where the Sugar Plum Fairy rewards Clara's bravery with a series of dances. Highlights include the Spanish, Arabian, Russian, Chinese and Mirliton Dances, as well as the Waltz of the Flowers and a pas de deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier. The ballet ends with Clara awakening from her dream.

The Covington Regional Ballet's production draws several hundred from the community each year.

"I think the dancers are becoming more mature as artists, so they're better able to create more of a magical feeling," said Robtison. "'Nutcracker' is kind of like a holiday tradition, so it sets the tone for the season."

After the "Nutcracker" run is through, it's time for the holiday choral sounds of the Oxford Singing Children, Oxford Singing Youth, and new this year, a group of singers dubbed Time Flies, presenting their "Christmas in Covington" concert at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11 at the First United Methodist Church of Covington.

The concert kicks off with the 57-voice Oxford Singing Children, who range in age from fourth to seventh grade, performing song and light choreography to the tune of "Frosty Hand Jive." They'll also be singing the African hymn "O Sifuni Mungu," "Gloria in Excelsis Deo," "Colors of Winter" and "How Can I Keep from Singing?"

"It's a great group this year," said Mary Lynn Luke, musical director for the Oxford singing groups.

After the OSC, the Oxford Singing Youth hits the stage. With 75 voices, it's the largest OYS choir in the history of the group, said Luke. They'll sing two versions of the same song, "Little Innocent Lamb" -- one written in a ballad style and one as a more fast-paced spiritual -- a jazz version of "Jingle Bells;" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

Rounding out the evening are songs performed by Time Flies, young adults ranging in age from 18 to 24, comprised of OYS alumni, Georgia Perimeter College students and other local community members. Their offerings won't all be in the holiday theme but entertaining nonetheless, said Luke, as they perform the theme from "Charlie Brown," "Seasons of Love" from "Rent," "Ticket to Ride" by the Beatles and "Pie Jesu" by Andrew Lloyd Webber. They'll conclude with the seasonal "What Child Is This?" and "The Holly and the Ivy."

"We have a good time," Luke said of the group.