For the first time in three years, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company presents Charles Tazewell’s charming 1946 children’s tale of “The Littlest Angel” Dec. 17 and 18 in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre of the University of Dayton.
Choreographed by DCDC associate artistic director Crystal Michelle with lovely simplicity and a few whimsical flourishes, “The Littlest Angel” is a touching account of giving and humility accented with narration and holiday tunes.
The story concerns a 4-year-old, homesick in heaven, who is allowed to return to Earth to retrieve a box. 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 the gift nonetheless.
“This story, and the way Crystal Michelle has interpreted the story in movement, is not detached from Spirit,” said DCDC company dancer Countess V. Winfrey, who portrays the titular role. “There is a lot of space to be the character because what I’m dancing about is something I believe in my daily life. Also, the Littlest Angel’s journey is one most people have felt. She gets into a new space and feels very disoriented and not sure how to exist. Once she learns how to exist, we watch her go through feeling unconfident. But in the end, we watch her become a star through her talent, her gifts. Anyone can relate to this story, whether it’s remembering what it was like on your first day of school or remembering what it was like when you presented your first project. There are so many different challenges we face in life, especially challenges that feel risky. So, it’s great to watch the Littlest Angel overcome her phase of uncertainty and feel validated by what she has to offer.”
Having danced with DCDC since 2014 in addition to the company’s pre-professional troupe two years prior, Winfrey, a native of Nashville, Tennessee, is excited to embody the role for the fourth time. She admits sharing certain similarities with the character’s journey, providing deeper subtext from within.
“The Littlest Angel is one of the biggest solo roles I’ve performed,” she said. “The role requires a lot of character work. There is a lot of vulnerability you have to allow yourself to have so the audience can feel a connection to the character. This role has allowed me to grow, and it has pushed me in many ways. In general, there have also been times when I felt like my box wasn’t as shiny as the other boxes in the rehearsal studio or at an audition. But I love to dance and I’m very thankful to be a part of DCDC. They saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself.”
This year marks the sixth iteration of “The Littlest Angel,” which organizers deem as “reimagined and renewed.” Winfrey views the show as a refreshing holiday alternative, particularly when various presentations of “The Nutcracker” are occurring. She hopes audiences will embrace the production as eagerly as in the past as a welcomed respite from the norm.
“I think ‘The Littlest Angel’ offers variety in story and a different way to approach the holiday season,” she said. “In addition to audiences being able to experience a holiday dance show in a more contemporary form, the movement is unapologetic in its incorporation of the grounded work and the partnering work that make up DCDC’s value system as a company of dancers. This is a holiday show that now feels like a DCDC classic, and it has been received as a classic which is why audiences have been able to connect to it.”
HOW TO GO
What: “The Littlest Angel”
Where: University of Dayton Kennedy Union Boll Theatre, 300 College Park, Dayton
When: Friday, Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: Call 937-228-3630 or visit dcdc.org/littlestangel
FYI: Masks are required