Room at the inn for Störling Dance Theater’s ‘Child of Hope’

Alexandra Wilson as the Angel Gabriel (leaping), and Jillian Sivewright as Mary with the Christ Child in Störling Dance Theater’s “Child of Hope” (photo by Jereme Wilson)

A lively and meaningful celebration of the reason, for so many, for the season

The Kansas City holiday season provides an incredible smorgasbord of performing arts, for every taste and viewpoint. And that’s a wonderful thing.

But aside from the glorious constellation of choral performances that light up the city from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, surprisingly few holiday offerings hearken to what Linus reminded us, in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” is, after all, the Christmas origin story.

With “Child of Hope,” Störling Dance Theater, the female-founded, female-directed and female-choreographed resident dance company of The Culture House in Olathe, addresses that void, with a lively and meaningful celebration of the reason, for so many, for the season.

Nativity scene from “Child of Hope” with Jillian Sivewright and James Fenoglio (photo by Jereme Wilson)

Promising the “richness and inspiration of Christmas and the Nativity story,” and “the Gospel story of the birth of Jesus like you’ve never seen it,” “Child of Hope” blends colorful, Middle East-inspired music, costumes and dance motifs with Christmas carols and Western ballet technique that add up to an evening of crowd-pleasing entertainment.

Like “The Nutcracker” or the Störling’s “Underground” (a Black History Month tradition at the Kauffman Performing Arts Center), “Child of Hope” proves words to be superfluous. Instead, richly imaginative scenes — village revels, court dancers entertaining Herod, Mary and Joseph fleeing from danger — vividly evoke the people, society and politics of an ancient Judea that seems to have been not much less complicated than today’s.

Whatever one’s creed, this 2,000-year-old story about a refugee family, a very expectant mother, who, despite her condition, is repeatedly denied shelter, is one that resonates today. And whatever one’s holiday observances, communal experiences of joy and hope, on the darkest nights of the year, are gifts to be treasured.

Störling Dance Theater presents “Child of Hope” at 7 p.m. Dec. 8; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 9; and 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 10 at The Culture House, Olathe Studio Theatre, 14808 W. 117th St., Olathe. For tickets and more information, www. storlingdance.org.

Grace Suh

Grace Suh's work has received awards from the Edward F. Albee Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts USC Arts Journalism Fellowship, Hedgebrook Writers in Residence Program, Djerassi Resident Artist Program and Charlotte Street Foundation.

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