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Kaitlin McCartney,  Katie Bienusa, Amanda Boelman, “The Christmas Toy Shoppe”

Kaitlin McCartney (playing granddaughter Elsie), Katie Bienusa (playing the Shepherdess doll) and Amanda Boelman (playing the Rag Doll) are ready for the Ballet Bitterroot Dance Academy’s production of “The Christmas Toy Shoppe” on Dec. 9 and 10 in Victor.

The Ballet Bitterroot Dance Academy is producing an original Christmas ballet entitled “The Christmas Toy Shoppe” with new plot, music and choreography in the Mary Stuart Rogers Performing Arts Center in Victor on Dec. 9 and 10. 

Ballet Bitterroot Dance Academy owner Courtney Ratliff said she designed the new show for two reasons.

“First, we wanted to bring something fresh to the Bitterroot since they’ve seen The Nutcracker for years and years,” She said. “Second, we have a lot of new students since we last did The Nutcracker and we wanted to make something that would fit our cast really well and show their strengths.”

“The Christmas Toy Shoppe” story follows a toy maker and his granddaughter as they go through Christmas Eve and Christmas. The grandfather is about to lose his shop to the banker who is collecting rent and claiming the shop as his own. The granddaughter must find a way, with the help of the Christmas Miracle, to keep the shop and bring Christmas to the town.

Ratliff is not revealing the identity of the Christmas Miracle ahead of the performance.

The show will be a little over an hour-long and features 40 students and six adults from the Bitterroot. The play has four main characters; two are lead dancers and two are actors in the Hamilton Players.

“Rich and Bruce Thomas are a father and son duo who do a fantastic job in working with our students,” Ratliff said. “We have a large scene with families. We don’t have any dance moms and dads but all the adults are volunteers from the community and it is fantastic to incorporate them with our students.”

Ratliff purchased the dance studio in February of 2015.

“With the purchase the name and logo changed but the majority of staff, the location and our students remained the same as well as our mission and our hearts behind why we do what we do,” Ratliff said.

The Ballet Bitterroot Dance Academy’s mission statement is “instilling confidence, grace, and poise while teaching technically excellent dance to all ages in a joyful, peaceful, life-giving environment.”

Ratliff said she purchased the studio because the previous board was ready to be free of the responsibility but still wanted to see classical ballet lessons continue. Ratliff had taught at the dance studio for the previous two years and the board invited her to take over ownership and continue the mission.

“I was thrilled to be invited to take on what was a lot of responsibility but was totally worth it every day,” Ratliff said.

The staff includes Ratliff who teaches classic ballet to dance students ages 8 and older, Mauriana Jessop who teaches baby ballet to dance students age 2-7 and Debbie Marsh the administrative director.

Writers and choreographers for the new play are Ratliff, Jessop and Char Pigman.

“Char is the original founder of the studio, 15 years ago,” Ratliff said. “She has been a joy to work with and gives us her support and her experience. She is also our primary costume mistress and she has been up to her elbows in beautiful costumes.”

Ratliff said when the community comes to see the show they will see a few of the beautiful costumes from The Nutcracker.

“We’ve also created brand new costumes as well,” she said. “They’ll recognize a little nod to the classic with some of our costumes. Char is so fun to work with and so great with the students.”

Ratliff said this is her fourth year teaching classical ballet. She started dancing at age four and took 12 years of classical ballet.

“The majority of my training heritage comes from Tulsa City Ballet in Oklahoma. I didn’t attend there, my instructors were from there so that is my ballet heritage,” she said. “I moved to Montana in 2008 and absolutely love the Bitterroot. I’ve lived here for eight years now. It is definitely home.”

Enjoy “The Christmas Toy Shoppe” at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9 and 10 in the Mary Stuart Rogers Performing Arts Center in Victor. Purchase tickets at Bitterroot Performing Arts Council at the Signal Square in Hamilton or at the door, if there are still tickets available. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $6 for children 12 under. Children age 4 and under get in free with an accompanying adult.

There is no matinee for the public but there is a school show for Corvallis and Hamilton students on Friday at 1 p.m.

“We’re filling it up so kids can experience classical ballet,” Ratliff said. “This is definitely a good place to live but we don’t have much classical ballet in the Bitterroot Valley. It is exciting to offer that side of the arts and that heritage to this community.”

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