‘Tis the season to reflect on the past year, spend time with family and loved ones, and create new memories. It’s also the time to recreate some of your favorite memories – traditions that carry over year to year and have, over time, become an integral part of the holiday season.
Here, Dance Informa reveals the Christmas traditions of some professional dance artists.
Melissa Gelfin, corps de ballet dancer, Cincinnati Ballet
“Music and art is very prevalent in my family. On Christmas night, all the cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends of the family have Christmas dinner at my grandparents’ house, and we sing epic Christmas carols. My grandmom plays the piano, my cousins bring out the bells, recorders and drums, my uncles and aunts sing, and my grandfather conducts the crowd. A few years ago, he used the mashed potato spoon to conduct with; I think that might be a new tradition now.”
Amanda Clark, corps de ballet dancer, Pacific Northwest Ballet
“My family kept Christmas pretty classic growing up; however, to help with the anticipation of Christmas morning, my family had several traditions for Christmas Eve. In the morning, we’d go see a movie together. (And I do mean the morning; we’d attend the 10am showing in a vacant theatre….) The best meal of the year was usually Christmas Eve dinner. My mother would singlehandedly pull off a giant traditional Italian seafood dinner helping to induce in my siblings and me food comas and visions of sugarplums as we anxiously waited for Santa! Lastly, and just because it’s so hard to wait, in the evening we would be allowed to open one present handpicked by my mother, usually something such as matching fuzzy, footie pajamas.”
Matthew Prescott, artistic director, Joffrey Ballet School Musical Theatre NYC/London
“After a long Nutcracker season, during the holidays my tradition is to spend time on the beach letting my body recover. I used to try and make it into the ocean on Christmas day but now do not live on a beach, so that is a little more challenging.”
Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, creative director and choreographer, I Am Force
“We open presents on the evening of the 24th, which is a lot more exciting, as you get to stay up and play with all the new stuff all night long!”
Sara Webb, principal dancer, Houston Ballet
“My grandfather is from Holland and taught us about St. Nicholas, who would ride in on a white horse and fill the children’s shoes with treats and toys. I think my mom and her sisters had so much fun with this new learned tradition that they added a few more days of leaving shoes out to be filled. For the first five nights of December, we leave our klompins, wooden shoes, out for St. Nick to fill with little treats and small gifts. Instead of coal, we were warned that you would be taken away in St. Nick’s bag to clean his house for a year if you were not good. Needless to say, we are all especially good in November and in December!
As for my immediate family, we started the tradition of riding the Polar Express the year my second baby was born. Everyone dresses in their favorite Christmas jammies and boards the Polar Express to the North Pole. It is just like the movie where hot chocolate and sweets are served, dancing and singing along the way, and a special visit from Santa and his elves. Each child receives a bell as a reminder to believe. Our family has grown from four to five, but it is a tradition that we hope to keep for many more years to come. This year will be our seventh year adventuring to the North Pole, and yes, we all still believe!”
Barton Cowperthwaite, national tour, An American in Paris
“Every Christmas, my family and I would wake up in the morning and open presents. For breakfast, my dad would always make beignets. Christmas has always been the only day my siblings and I would get these delicious treats. They are a kind of French doughnut, but they’re square and you fry them until they puff up and then you smother them in powdered sugar or cinnamon. Our Christmases were always about family and beignets!”
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.