Jolly Holidays

Steamboat original incorporates tradition, innovation

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This is our Rockefeller Center. This is the big Christmas show with a bell choir and a children's choir and lots and lots of dancing.

Heidi Meshurel-Jolly began working on her biannual showcase "Jolly Holidays" last May. Her creation would coordinate 55 dancers from ages 4 to 50.

"I tried to incorporate all the elements of the holidays," she said. "This show is perfect for anyone who needs a holiday boost."

She took inspiration this year from the Radio City Rockettes.

Meshurel-Jolly put the famous Rockette dance moves on 12 of her dancers dressed as wooden soldiers, which not only requires a lot of strength, but also hours and hours of practice. The seemingly simple moves need to be coordinated perfectly. Legs need to kick at the same height, at the same time, and the piece ends with the famous, not as easy as it looks, "Rockette fall." Meshurel-Jolly took her dancers to Denver during the Thanksgiving weekend to watch the Rockettes.

This is the second time Jolly Holidays has been performed. The first time was staged in December 2002.

"This is the best one I've done yet," she said. "The choreography just jumped out this time."

Meshurel-Jolly kept the scenery to a minimum, instead letting the costumes and dancing fill the stage. She also invited Steamboat Springs High School graduate Carter Dunham back to design the lights. Dunham was the lighting director for the first Jolly Holidays when he was a senior in high school. After two years at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Dunham is coming back with new ideas that Meshurel-Jolly said she has never seen on a stage in Steamboat Springs before.

For those who attended the first performance, a few familiar pieces will tie the concert together. "Santa Baby," "Haul out the Holly" and "Marionettes" will be back. The rest is new, sprung from the imagination of Meshurel-Jolly, who got the majority of her dancing experience on stage at Disney World, performing in "Beauty and the Beast."

She thinks big, and her dancers say that she is strict and expects the best from them.

"She's more professional than teachers we've had in the past," said dancer Katie Matteo, 16. "She's disciplined, and there's more structure."

For the 2004 Jolly Holidays, Meshurel-Jolly enrolled the help of two other choreographers -- Wendy Smith-Mikelsons and Tiana Buschmann.

"It takes some of the load off me, but it also offers some variety," Meshurel-Jolly said.

Buschmann choreographs in a hip-hop style, full of stylized moves with attitude, and Smith-Mikelsons, owner of children's dance works, choreographs for younger dancers.

Smith-Mikelsons put together a piece called "children go ...!" set to the music of the Jackson Hole, Wyo., bluegrass band Loose Ties. Her dancers range in age from 4 to 11. The dance is based on a children's book titled "Harold and the Purple Crayon." Children follow straight lines, curvy lines and zigzag lines to the sound of "Children go where I send thee."

Dancer Taylor Miller-Freutel, 15, and Matteo were cast in a dance choreographed by Buschmann. "Santa's Workshop" is a nine-minute hip-hop piece with elves, toy soldiers, a ballerina doll danced by Matteo and a jack in the box danced by Miller-Freutel.

"You have to have more of an attitude to dance hip-hop," Miller-Freutel said. "It's edgier."

Students of Meshurel-Jolly are encouraged to try all styles of dance.

"Each dance style strengthens a different part of your body," Matteo said. And a variety of dance styles keep an audience interested, Meshurel-Jolly said.

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