ABBA dancers bring to life the true story of Christmas across time

by Chris Studor

Let your mind wander back to a time when horses still pulled sleighs with tinkling bells and Christmastime is fast approaching.

Now, imagine a young girl whose heart is aching as she searches for something missing but is unable to grasp it.

This is the theme of “The Christmas Experience: Hope is Alive,” which Hinckley’s ABBA Dance company will bring to life Dec. 2-3 at the North Royalton High School Performing Arts Center.

Dressed in period costumes with colorful scenery, more than 50 dancers, ages 4-82, will take the audience across the sands of time.

Directing this sparkling performance is 19-year-old Hinckley resident Rachel King ,who began her formal studies at the Soma School of Fine Arts, which provides instruction for high school homeschoolers. At her side, offering additional guidance, is her mother, Connie, a ballroom dance teacher.

Rachel King’s most recent background includes studying at the Ohio Conservatory of Ballet under Inna Stravrova and Dmitri Tubolsev, a husband and wife team. Tubolsev once worked as a principal dancer for the Bolshoi Ballet.

Her first job was teaching at Cornerstone Church and she has gone on to form her own troop of dancers through ABBA Dance.

“We are a vibrant Christian dance community dedicated to providing families with a place to find friends, glorify God and minister to the people around us,” King said. “ABBA Dance seeks to tell the story of Christ in a refreshing and innovative way that reaches those who would otherwise have no access to the gospel or are not used to a church atmosphere. We offer plenty of social opportunities as well.”

King explained that each lesson begins with a devotional and prayer period. From there, dancers move onto learning the challenging movements of ballet and how to present themselves in such a manner that they engage with the audience.

Last year was the first year ABBA Dance presented the Christmas performance and King said she was “amazed and proud” at how focused and determined the students were to be ready for a performance with practices starting in September.

This year, she said, principal dancers began studying in August and most dancers continue to come to the studio to practice three times a week. Principal dancers in this year’s performance include Autumn Johnson, Kenzie Eliker and Kara Pizon.

King said she is grateful to Hinckley Preparatory Academy, which is now renting ABBA Dance its gymnasium for practice. Prior practice areas had carpeted floors, making it challenging for dancers to do turns. The gymnasium floor, however, provides the kind of surface dancers need to execute complicated turns.

“My motivation for the performance is to present a true Christmas story,” King said. “While the famous ‘Nutcracker’ ballet is popular at Christmastime, it does not tell the story of Christ. I wanted to bring that story alive on stage.”

Last year ABBA offered a single performance, but with 500-plus people attending, Rachel decided to add a second performance this year. The Saturday, Dec. 2, performance will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the Sunday, Dec. 3, performance will begin at 3 p.m. Both will take place at the North Royalton High School Center for Performing Arts, 14713 Ridge Rd.

General-admission tickets are $15 and $10 for children ages 10 and under. Children age three and under may attend for free if they are sitting on a lap. Tickets can be purchased at the ABBA website, ∞

Excitement builds as the dancers look forward to a neighboring Christmas party. Photo by Chris Studor

“The Christmas Experience: Hope Is Alive” will be performed by ABBA Dance this
December, directed by Hinckley resident Rachel King (right) pictured rehearsing with
one of her students. Photos by Chris Studor.

On our cover (photo): Hinckley resident Rachel King began dance training as a child and now runs her own company, ABBA Dance, which will be performing “Hope is Alive – A Christmas Experience,” at North Royalton High School Dec. 2 -3. Photo by Chris Studor.