McAllen Ballet Company offers take on ‘A Christmas Carol’ set in 1940s

Mariana Alonso,26, is seen during a rehearsal of "A Christmas Carol The Musical" along with Rolando Pacheco at the McAllen Ballet Company on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

Presenting ghosts wearing ballet shoes and jazz moves from the 1940s, dancers from the McAllen Ballet Company will take audiences back and forward through time this weekend.

Telling the tale of “A Christmas Carol,” company director Rolando Pacheco orchestrated his own interpretation of the story. Instead of choosing to perform a ballet that already has choreography and music, like “The Nutcracker,” Pacheco wanted to bring a different story to the stage. Though he says it was difficult to make a musical arrangement with only the narrative to refer to, he got it done.

The McAllen Ballet Company will be performing “A Christmas Carol The Musical” at the Valley View Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

This is the second year the company will perform the show, but Pacheco says the entire performance is new since he decided to change its period.

“The first time we did it, I set it at the 1800s,” said Pacheco, 48. “I moved it to the 1940s to brighten it up, since that performance was a little dark. We go back to 1920 in the story, then to the 1950s for the future.”

Pacheco says that the audience should prepare to step into different eras.

“It is going to be like people are still alive from that age,” said Pacheco. “We took the time to learn the dances from those ages. The moves and the styles are different, but we learned it.”

Pacheco grew up in Cuba and studied at the Fernando Alonso National School of Ballet. He was introduced to ballet at 9-years-old and started his professional career at 18. Though his talent has taken him around the world to work with other production companies, Pacheco settled here in McAllen in 2004 and opened the McAllen Ballet Company in 2009. He says that the Valley has talent, but it all comes down to how well it is nurtured and disciplined.

Members of the Rolando Pacheco McAllen Ballet Company rehearse “A Christmas Carol The Musical” on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

“I offer a more professional company,” said Pacheco, who also knows flamenco, a highly expressive Spanish dance style. “What happens in ballet is that your brain and head have to be there. I try to teach them to put in their minds how it is to work and to think. From the beginning, that is everything. Ballet is like a sport — it’s harder even.”

The McAllen Ballet Company teaches around 50 students five days out of the week. Also offering jazz, tap, contemporary and modern dance, classes are available for ages 3 and up. The company has plans to offer salsa and flamenco lessons soon as well.

Lizbeth Villareal, the principle dancer of the show, says that their version of A Christmas Carol is unique because it presents a mix of multiple dance genres. “I like what we are doing because it is not only classical ballet,” said Villarreal, 20. “We also have jazz, and 1920s tap for the smaller girls. We have a lot of upbeat numbers, and I really hope the audience gets into it. There are also a lot of traditional Christmas songs that everyone will recognize.”

Kendyl Keenan, who is 10-years-old, will be dancing as one of the ghosts this weekend. She says that the story will take the audience through a series of emotions, but will ultimately leave them with a good feeling.

“The story takes you all over the place,” said Keenan, a fifth grader. “People will have mixed emotions, with the ghosts and the sadness, then the huge fancy party at the Christmas finale. But they will leave with a happy Christmas mood.”

Keenan is excited for the props and costumes that the performance requires.

“There is going to be a town for some portion of the show,” she said. “For the party scene, there are going to be colorful ballroom-type dresses with shawls, since we are going back to the past for a part.”

Style and technique aside, Patricia De Luna, 18, says that the importance of their performance lies in the lesson that their story offers.

“He (Scrooge) hates everyone and everything, but he gets another chance to be a kind person,” said De Luna, a South Texas College student. “Hopefully people will watch the show and reevaluate their own attitudes this season. Hopefully be more forgiving and give more thought about others.”