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Callanwolde School of Dance brings light-hearted fun with Our Common Joy

Photos by Julian Mejia

From November 26 to December 11, 2021, the staff and artisans of Callanwolde Fine Arts Center transformed the historic home into a vibrant, bustling hub of holiday cheer. The new Winter House programming included an artists’ market, public workshops, and dance and musical performances.

On the closing weekend of Winter House, December 10-11, Callanwolde School of Dance offered Our Common Joy, a playful remix of familiar Christmas themes and stories, written and directed by Jerylann Warner and featuring a special guest appearance from the Ebenezer Gospel Choir of Atlanta. It was a fun, kid-friendly event that provided an excellent opportunity for the school’s students to work with locally esteemed choreographers and share their love of dance with friends and family.

Capitalizing on the quasi-residential setting, Our Common Joy reworked the traditional idea of the

Christmas Eve dreamscape. It opened with a group of young dancers—dressed as if for bed in fluffy robes—who queried the audience in song, “What are you doing here?” Guest performer Steve Cole, acting the part of an audience member, responded that everyone had gathered to see a performance, and in the next set piece “JR, JR, He is a star,” JR McCall was installed as a master-of-ceremonies of sorts to lead the audience through the rest of the program.

In addition to holiday standards like, “Jingle Bells” and “Let It Snow,” Warner’s original verse and the choreography by Warner, Corian Ellisor and Jillian Mitchell drew narrative material and imagery from The Night Before Christmas, The Nutcracker, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Christmas Carol. The music was eclectic, ranging through classical, jazz, swing, and pop. The dance vocabulary was grounded in a lyrical modern style, occasionally infused with ballet, jazz, and popular social dance, depending on the number.

The show’s variety, popular references, and pacing kept it interesting for the youngest audience members, and the run-time was about an hour. Throughout, the young dancers projected confidence, enjoying their time on stage. The finale, “Joy” was choreographed by Ellisor for the school’s Pro Prime Movers and brought the Ebenezer Baptist Choir, under the direction of Dr. Patrice Turner, onstage for an inspiring vocal performance, creating a memorable and joyful moment for both cast and audience.

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