Sweat drips from the dancer’s brow, off his nose and onto the floor as he holds his pose following his passionate, intricate and entertaining dance numbers. There are no cheers, applause, or standing ovation, yet the performers dance as if on stage in front of a packed house. They are preparing for the spotlight of their big night during this rehearsal.

Before performing for three days in a row this past weekend at Toronto’s Fleck Dance Theatre, Ballet Creole, Toronto’s established dance company, prepared for the 12th annual presentation of the acclaimed Soulful Messiah production.

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Hidden away in the warm Xing Dance Studio, the nine dancers, which included three-time World Tap Dance Champion, David Cox, stretch to prepare for rehearsal while Artistic Director Patrick Parson, adamant about his vision, works with the principle dancers on their solo pieces. With just a few minor changes, they are quite apparently ready for opening night.

The bare mirror-filled dance studio is used as a blank canvas for the production, which seems to change and evolve to fit the setting of each dance as the nine performers run through the production, from start to finish.

There is no storyline and there are no characters. The dancers are out of costume and in their regular dance attire, yet the relatable and emotional themes of the presentation, which include the spirit of the holidays — hope, love and joy — are quite evident in the choreography and energy from the dancers.

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Each dance number is vastly original from the one before it, as the soundtrack, the Grammy-winning, Quincy Jones-produced Hendel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration plays a range of genres and tempos as a platform for the jazz, African-Caribbean, ballet, tap and contemporary modern dances that make up the production.

The nine young principle dancers, song after song, perform nearly the entire time as Cox’s exceptional skills are weaved into the production to allow time for the others to take a breath.

They each give it their all, pushing themselves during the presentation, which lasts over an hour. The unbelievable skill of each dancers, which included three main principle males and five main principle females creates a smooth show that flows from beginning to end, always pushing the limit of expectation with each twirl, leap and lift.

The production of Soulful Messiah is a celebration of not only the holidays, but the spirit of dance.

Words By. Samantha O’Connor