Dayton Contemporary Dance Company’s family-friendly holiday presentation of Charles Tazewell’s endearing 1946 children’s story “The Littlest Angel” receives its third consecutive staging Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3 in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre of the University of Dayton.
A touching story of giving and humility accented with narration and traditional holiday tunes, “The Littlest Angel” concerns a 4-year-old boy homesick in heaven who is allowed to return to Earth to retrieve a box he left behind. Meanwhile, God announces Jesus will soon be born in Bethlehem and every angel prepares a gift. The Littlest Angel decides to give Jesus a small box of personal items, but ultimately questions its worth compared to the other gifts. However, God recognizes the inherent value in his gift nonetheless.
“Watching an innocent child’s discovery of sacrifice and love during the holiday season is very special,” said choreographer and DCDC associate artistic director Crystal Michelle who performed nine seasons with DCDC. “The Littlest Angel learns that the ‘lowly gifts’ are most important to the Creator. And in a spiritual context, it’s awesome not to have to put religious preference aside with this production. There’s nothing hidden about what I believe about God’s love and what God has to say about love through the Littlest Angel. Even though this story is a tale of fiction, I can still weave certain things into the story related to my own walk of faith that I believe are universal human truths about how people should treat each other and support each other. I really hope people walk away from the show filled with joy and imagination about what is possible in the world.”
From an artistic standpoint, Michelle has restaged some of the routines to suit the addition of new company members. She says it’s been enjoyable finding fresh paths into the material to spark the same magic audiences appreciated in the previous incarnations.
“I’ve made a few adjustments,” she said. “I wanted to make sure the new dancers, particularly in the way they move and the textures they provide, are highlighted in the best possible way. At the end of the day, the dancers are the storytellers. They are responsible for giving the gift to the audience. They have to understand that first before the audience can. I’m still sort of swept away by this production and its growth since the first year we presented it. I still find so much joy in the story.”
A special extra feature will be the Angel Café, an opportunity for children and families to connect to the show on a personal level while establishing a closer relationship to the company. Guests will be able to create a pair of angel wings, decorate holiday cookies, and meet the dancers among other festive activities.
“Connection to the community is in the DCDC fabric,” said Michelle, modeling the Angel Café after the Nutcracker Teas she participated in while growing up as a dancer in Augusta, Georgia. “There isn’t anything we do that doesn’t allow the audience to make a real and true connection to us as people. And I particularly chose café since jazz music and coffee house culture is huge within the African-American community. We’re excited to offer Dayton another community-centered, face-to-face experience with the company.”