Hoppin’ holidays with ‘Velveteen Rabbit’

Showcasing the special bond between a young boy and his cherished stuffed animal, Margery Williams’ classic children’s book “The Velveteen Rabbit” is, starting today at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, once again being brought to life by ODC/Dance for the holidays.

A Bay Area family favorite, the production was created by ODC Co-artistic Director KT Nelson in 1986, and over the years has grown from a simple, bare-bones affair into a full-fledged mix of dance, music, art and storytelling.

While the performances are geared toward young children, Nelson says the show also appeals to older audience members: “All of us have been kids, and many of us have been parents, so I think there are messages in the story about what it means to have someone you love endlessly, and what it means to get old and worn out. Those are the two ends of it that I think many of us can relate to in our various walks in life.”

The production’s dancing and action are accompanied by narration of the book’s text on a soundtrack. At first, that seemed odd to some in the dance community, but to Nelson it seemed perfectly natural.

She says, “A lot of people don’t understand dance, but because of the narration, people understand what’s going on. It gave me freedom to choreograph the emotional role of the characters, not the story. I think Margery Williams has a wonderful language, she talks about some serious things without getting too saccharine or too preachy; she has fun with it.”

Over the years, “The Velveteen Rabbit’s” tradition has expanded to include special events, including a “studio to stage” program earlier this month in which families were invited to learn dances from the production, which Nelson says gives the audience “a greater investment in the work.”

Additional programs accompanying this year’s performances are a grandparents and photo day today; a milk and cookies party Sunday, a dress-up day and bunny petting zoo on Dec. 5, and more bunny petting Dec. 6 and 12.

 

IF YOU GO
The Velveteen Rabbit
Presented by ODC/Dance

Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard St., San Francisco
When: 2 p.m. today, Saturday, Sunday, Dec. 6 and Dec. 13; 11 a.m. Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 10-11; 1 and 4 p.m. Dec. 12; closes Dec. 13
Tickets: $15 to $45
Contact: (415) 978-2787, www.odcdance.org

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