Theatre and Dance dept. heralds in the holidays

Tyler Anderson

Van Meter Hall will be transformed into a winter wonderland straight from fairytales this weekend.

“A Holiday Extravaganza: Featuring Cinderella & Friends” is the department’s attempt to break away from the traditional “The Nutcracker” for a second year in a row.  

Months in the making, this performance will feature two parts. The first will include the classic fairytale “Cinderella” in ballet form. The second introduces the audience to a collection of jazz and modern pieces, as well as a piece based on the Disney movie “Frozen.”  

Memphis sophomore Samantha Pennella is excited to be a part of the program again this year. Charged with the role of the evil stepmother, the dancer of 16 years will be taking a huge leap into the spotlight. 

“Last year, I was just a court fairy. So this is definitely a big change,” Pennella said. “It’s really a lot of work, but I’m really excited.”  

She stressed the important part that her teachers and Clifton Brown, dance program coordinator, have played in her success. 

“They’re always pushing us to be better. The constructive criticism can be overwhelming, but they have our best interests at heart,” she said. 

Playing the evil stepmother called for mental preparation on Pennella’s part.

“I’m one of the nicest people ever. Ask any of my friends. It was tough to get into that mindset, but it’s been fun,” she said. 

“Cinderella” is known worldwide and Meg Hoshor, a junior from Centerville, Ohio, was tasked with portraying the iconic maid-turned-royalty.  

Hoshor was ready to put in the long hours to be able to play the role of Cinderella.  

“When I first found out I’d be playing the part of Cinderella, I was a bit overwhelmed,” she said. “I knew it would be a lot of work, and it was. But having the chance to be in one of my favorite ballets and play Cinderella, herself, was exciting. It makes all the rehearsals and lessons worth it.” 

Brown was in charge of orchestrating the performance. Brown has held his directorial position for six of his 11 years at WKU. During that time, Brown has watched the dance program bloom. 

“We started with a faculty of two, and now we are a faculty of four. Plus two adjuncts and resident musicians. We are very lucky,” he said. 

The theatre and dance department’s publicist, Julie Pride, said having resident musicians in a dance program is a high honor. Pride also doubles as the resident pianist. 

Over the past few years, WKU has drawn the attention of several world-renowned dance companies. 

“This next year we have Geoffrey Ballet, Ruth Page Center for Creative Arts, Nutmeg Ballet and Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre coming for regional auditions,” Brown said. “We’re becoming known for having talented students.”  

Last year’s production of “A Holiday Extravaganza” was a huge success for the department. 

The audience doubled from 2012 to 2013 once the department decided to move away from “The Nutcracker.” 

Brown was especially excited about the reception to the new production, as the visiting Moscow Ballet will be performing their “Great Russian Nutcracker” at SKyPAC this weekend.  

“We simply cannot compete with a professional troupe. We’re fortunate for our success this past year,” Brown said. 

Brown hopes that the audience has a strong appreciation for what his students have accomplished. 

“I want them to take away happiness and hope. We see so many bad things in the news, and sometimes, people forget to have hope. There are special things and special people in the world, and I want them to know this.”

The show will debut in Van Meter on Friday and run through Sunday. Friday and Saturday performances will begin at 8 p.m., with Sunday’s performance beginning at 3 p.m. Tickets are $12 for students and $15 for adults.