"The Magic Toy Shop' kicks off holiday fun

Now that Halloween has played its last trick, Gwinnett audiences can look forward to some wonderful performing arts treats. Beginning this weekend, a calendar full of dance, music and fun launches the holiday season.

Southern Ballet Theatre's "The Magic Toy Shop" is a wonderful way to kick off the annual festivities at 2:30 and

7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center. Attendees will be delighted by the dancing toys, but they get to see much more. In addition to "The Magic Toy Shop," Southern Ballet Theatre dancers will present many works from their repertoire.

Said SBT co-artistic director Phyllis Allen, ""The Magic Toy Shop' awakens the inner child in all of us and really gets us in the spirit of the holiday season. The repertory works span a very wide range of styles and moods ... something for everyone's taste."

"The Magic Toy Shop" will feature all company members. Apprentice members will portray shoppers. Junior Company members will perform as toy soldiers. Pre-Professional Company members will enact more "magical" toys such as a music box ballerina, a jack-in-the-box, dancing teddy bears, marionettes and wind-up dolls.

The versatility and creativity of Southern Ballet Theatre is well noted in their contemporary repertoire. Plus, they have invited, as special guest performers, a Christian-based dance company, Salt and Light Dance Studios of Sweetwater, Tenn., to perform "Shadow of a Tree," a piece from the company's well known show "HIStory: My Deliverer," a ballet with vocal accompaniment using Contemporary Christian music.

Southern Ballet's own dancers will offer a wide selection of pieces. Most intriguing is "LBD, from Mourning to Evening." This work, choreographed by Krista Jennings, explores Coco Chanel's classic fashion staple, the little black dress, and the women who wear it.

Two pointe pieces with different "points" of view are "Amizade" and "Seraphic Revelry." The first is a contemporary piece by Sarah D'Urso which was inspired by the music from the movie "August Rush." The second is a classical pointe piece by Jeanne Deitrich which explores what might happen if free spirits were joined by a common bond.

There is also the contemporary piece "Contrepointe," choreographed by Camille McDade. "Rivica," also choreographed by Jeanne Deitrich, combines the modern dance, ballet and Pilates to show that strength can lie beneath what appears to be softness.

"Defy" by Brandon Chitwood depicts a dead carnival coming back to life before the audience's eyes. "Adele's Hometown Glory" features SBT veterans Rachel Campbell, Dana Tumlin, and Christin Walker in a piece that embraces the idea of finding pleasure, encouragement, and wonder in everyday people and places.

Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door for adults. To purchase tickets, visit a Ticketmaster location or the Gwinnett Center Box Office, call 404-249-6400. For more information about Southern Ballet Theatre, call 770-963-2685 or go to www.southernballettheatre.org.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts.

E-mail hcalmes@mindspring.com.