New Palmdale Junior Ballet Artistic Director Shannon Bunch will take on a holiday classic for her first show — “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” — at 2 and 7 p.m., Dec. 2, at the Palmdale Playhouse.
The ballet is based on the 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which later became widely known as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The poem was originally published anonymously, but is credited to American Author Clement Clarke Moore.
Bunch, 22, took over for former artistic director Heather Benes, who retired after teaching dance for 35 years. Bunch is a former student of Benes.
“We were supposed to do ‘Nutcracker’ this year, but Heather Benes was thinking since it’s my first show, we might start with something brand new,” she said.
Bunch admitted leading her own production was a little intimidating at first. When she first considered using Moore’s poem, she thought it would make a beautiful ballet. Once she set out to create it, she realized the poem lacks a plot.
“That was the intimidating part — trying to figure out a plot for the storyline and dances that could go with it and then trying to find the music to go with that, and then eventually choreographing to the music,” she said.
In a way, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” was a more difficult production to begin with. While “The Nutcracker,” is a bigger production, it has also been done countless times by companies all over the world. So there was reference material if Bunch needed it. “Nutcracker” also has a plot and popular music by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, a romantic period composer whose works are among the most popular classical pieces.
Bunch’s “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” is set in the 1940s. The ballet opens on Christmas Eve, before the family has gone to bed. The father, wife and children are making cookies and hanging stockings for Santa.
“The music I have is all jazz, old jazz, so it’s really fun,” she said.
The music includes Benny Goodwin, George Gershwin and Coleman Hawkins. The cast has 26 dancers who range in age from 8 years old to adult.
The program also includes Palmdale Theatre Dance, which will perform “Dance Into Christmas” with “Up on the Housetop,” “Jingle Bell Swing” and “Happy Santa Dance.” Presented by Palmdale Junior Ballet and Theatre Dance. Bunch collaborated with Erin Hvegholm, the jazz and tap dance teacher for the show.
“’Twas the Night Before Christmas” will be performed at 2 and 7 p.m., Dec. 2, at the Palmdale Playhouse, 38334 10th St. East. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $10 for seniors, military, students and children 12 and younger.