Bringing the Austrian Alps to Ariz. - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Arts & Life

Bringing the Austrian Alps to Ariz.

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Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2013 3:45 am

Wanda Manville, director of the Tempe Dance Academy, is putting on the annual Christmas show at Chandler Center for the Arts — inspired from one of the dance company’s trips to Europe.

The Spirit of Christmas performances will feature six shows and start this Saturday, Dec. 14 through Sunday Dec. 22.

Manville was inspired to create the show when she was visiting Salzburg, Austria, with her students. The city is famously known as the town featured in the “Sound of Music” film.

“We were in Salzburg going through the Alps and it was all snowy and pretty, and I said we got to do a Christmas show,” Manville said. “We decided to do the Christmas show and make it look like that little place I saw in Austria and that is what we patterned our backdrop after.”

The Tempe Dance Academy has been hosting a Christmas show for 26 years. The production features students ranging in age from 3 years old to college-aged.

The show features different styles of dance and includes singers, Santa Claus and an 8-foot-tall snowman.

The production is meant for the entire family.

“It appeals to everybody. Dads like it, kids like it, moms like it, grandmas like it,” Manville said.

As director of the show, Manville has been teaching dance in Arizona for 61 years. Her extensive experience teaching has led to the success of her students at the next level. She has seen many of her students go on to elite programs.

Manville has students currently attending or will be attending in the fall of 2014 prestigious colleges in New York, including the Julliard School and prestigious institutions in Pennsylvania like University of the Arts, Philadelphia.

Some of her alumni are returning to perform in the Christmas show. The students who have seen success in the Tempe Dance Academy have most likely gone on the academy’s trip to Europe. The Tempe Dance Academy has offered the trip every other year for 30 years.

Manville has gone to Europe 14 times with her students.

“We usually do Paris, London, Venice, Salzburg, Switzerland, all the nice places I like we get to go again,” Manville said. “The kids end up going again two to three times. It’s a fun trip, it’s a bonding trip.”

The adventure usually consists of between 40 and 80 students, parents and instructors. Parents are allowed to go on the trips, if they wish, but many of the children go independently.

The trip is a unique opportunity for the students to perform internationally and learn about other cultures. It includes tours of landmarks where students learn about the history behind the buildings.

At the end of the trip students are required to write an essay about their experiences. Manville said the essays are always moving and provide amazing stories.

The students will bring these stories and lessons with them on stage and present an inspiring performance to bring out holiday cheer.

Show times are 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14; 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15; 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21; and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 22.

For more information about the Tempe Dance Academy, visit http://www.tempedance.com.

For tickets and information about the show and venue, go to http://chandlercenter.org/home.html.

• Matt Covert is a sophomore at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.

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