Adapting Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is an ambitious undertaking. The members of AMDC pull it off because of their ability to have fun and do things differently. Avatar Movement Dance Company’s greatest strength, apart from the devotion of its dancers, lies in this difference. A non-conventional winter season offering, shared choreographic duties, atmospheric vocalizations by dancers, and the willingness to take creative risks distinguish this passionate company.
The best scenes in the show depart from the script and utilize covers of the classic songs by the likes of Fiona Apple, The Polyphonic Spree, Datarock, and more. I would have enjoyed a total commitment to this alternative soundtrack rather than the sometimes disorienting mix of new and original music. I could also see this interpretation of The Nightmare Before Christmas being taken even further, all the way into rock opera territory.
It was great to see children of all ages taking in the performance. This is a testament to the unique appeal of the story, which is a clever take on (and in ways, a subversion of) the traditional hero’s journey literary archetype. In addition, the exposure of very young people to the performance arts (and really, anything that is enacted by live people rather than seen on a screen) is as crucial an education as learning reading and math.
Dancer and choreographer Maggie Chapman’s Jack Skellington cut a fearsome figure on perilous stilts. Jack’s first larger-than-life appearance on stage was quite impactful, which the appreciative audience applauded. A powerful statement benefits from being used sparingly, however, as familiarity lessens that power. Perhaps an expanded use of light and shadow, specifically strong light and Jack’s shadow, could be occasionally utilized to represent Jack’s presence in place of Jack himself.
I was unable to determine the origin or designer of the costumes, but they were excellent. Among others, I enjoyed Sally’s patchwork dress, the delightful Mayor, and especially the fabulous Oogie Boogie. The makeup work was also commendable. The chorus girls who fleshed out Oogie’s song were a classy touch, and Oogie’s minions executed some great athletic movements. The masked minion stood out, even among her enthusiastic compatriots, as an exceptional dancer.
AMDC boasts several Colorado natives, is community based and supported, and has a fresh and inclusive vibe. I’m very interested to see where they next focus their unique approach.
Jane E. Werle: With artwork and writing published by Bombay Gin, Hot Whiskey Press, Wyrd Tree Press, Summer Stock, and her own imprint, Thirsty Lizard Books, Jane is a passionate proponent of creativity, self-expression, and the pursuit of elusive and meaningful beauty. A poet, educator, and longtime nanny, she works and explores with kids, challenging young minds and safeguarding young hearts. Jane graduated with an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and has come up with no compelling reason since to move away from the lively Denver area and its admirably self-made cultural opportunities. Contact Jane with editing needs, parenting problems, and extravagant travel writing proposals.