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Burn the Floor Diversity in Dance to present "Love is Christmas"

By Linda Sailer

Amid flocked Christmas trees and snowflakes falling down, Burn the Floor Diversity in Dance will present its winter production titled “Love is Christmas.”

The performance is 7 p.m.  Thursday, Dec. 19, in the Astoria Hotel and Convention Center, 363 15th St. W.

“It’s to debut the hard work the children have worked on since September,” said Nikki St. John, owner, director and choreographer. “For myself and other teachers and staff, it’s a way to give back to the community.”

The performance is a bit different than the spring show.

“This is a more traditional time of year, and so it the production is more formal,” she said.

The production involves a cast of 150 children ages 4 to 21.

During lessons, the little ones are taught to keep a beat and recognize parts of a dance. The intermediate groups have choreographed works, but with an emphasis on the techniques.

“We tell students this is school — this is dance school,” St. John said. “There is a science to it.”

The advance classes include hip hop, jazz and ballet.

“Ballet is a generalized word for modern, contemporary and lyrical,” she said. “We encompass all styles of ballet.”

Competition is reserved for those dancers who are most gifted and talented, she said.

“They will be debuting their dances at the Christmas show,” St. John said. “But they’re only giving away a snippet, less than a minute, to show the audience what they have learned. The perfected dances will be performed at the spring recital.”

St. John said her older students pretty much live at the dance studio.

“Parents say I see them more than they do,” she said.

St. John is assisted with classes by two Dickinson State University students, Alysse Charlesworth and Kelsey Murphy.

“I’ve been dancing since age 4 and studied dance in my hometown of Glendive,” Charlesworth said. “When I came here, I wanted to start dancing again. I’ve been teaching since I was an eighth-grader.”

Murphy attended a performing arts high school in Texas and received a degree in dance at Seattle. She moved to Dickinson with her fiancé and is taking additional dance classes at DSU.

Teaching here for a year, she said, “It’s really rewarding because the students are so excited to be here.”

She has multiple reasons for the public to attend the winter performance.

“You should come because you want to support the arts here, you want to support the kids and also it is definitely entertaining.”

Proceeds from the Christmas show will go toward an upcoming trip to Japan by St. John’s LEAD (Love Everything About Dance) group.

“We found that Japanese are really into Americanized dance,” she said. “Hip hop is especially huge.”

St. John said any dance group can travel to New York, but she wanted to give her students a cultural experience where English is not the primary language.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” St. John said. “We’re there to teach dance pieces in the areas we do and they will teach us in the way they do it.”

When she introduced the idea 1½ years ago, she said the students literally screamed, cried and jumped up and down.

“This is a family trip overseas,” she said. “Anyone in your family can go along.”

The trip is scheduled for July or early August of 2014. Burn the Floor is not formally raising the money, but welcomes freewill offerings and sponsorships.

Tickets for the winter production are $15 in advance and $20 at the door for adults ages 11 years and older. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 for children ages 6-10.

Seating is limited, so advanced tickets are encouraged. Tickets are available at Burn the Floor Dance studio, 40 First Ave. West, or the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce.

St. John also encourages the public to attend.

“People do not realize the talent we have in the state of North Dakota,” she said.