The annual "A Dancer's Christmas" is an epic production, with 50 performers (including 20 children) weaving classical and modern ballet, folk dancing, and even Irish step dancing into stories about the Nativity, a medieval Christmas Eve, and Christmas spirit. But, partly because of the intense competition for dancers in Boston, the show's 28th year will be its last. The Rev. Robert VerEecke, 60, a Jesuit priest at Boston College who is also the show's choreographer - and says he has the "flexibility of a 30-year-old" - talked to us about his last hurrah.
Q. What sparked your passion for dance?
A. I always loved to dance but never studied formally because it wasn't approved for young boys. . . . I had the opportunity to study classical ballet at a Jesuit artists' institute. It was an epiphany for me. In a moment I saw the power of dance to express the beauty and struggle of the human condition.
Q. Any fond memories to share of "A Dancer's Christmas"?
A. Carol Coggio Faherty, who began "A Dancer's Christmas" with me in 1980, was diagnosed with breast cancer right as we started rehearsing for our 20th-anniversary performance. Needless to say, she was unable to dance because of treatment. It was heartbreaking for all of us. The night before the last performance that year, one of the other dancers injured herself and was not going to be able to perform. That morning I called Carol and asked if she thought she could fill in. She did, beautifully, with many tears on all of our parts.
Q. How do you feel about this being the show's final run?
A. I have mixed feelings. . . . That kind of dedication and commitment and love of the show and the people involved is something that I will miss. But I am also incredibly grateful; you know, as a Jesuit priest who happens to a choreographer it's been a great privilege to work with the dancers of the caliber that I have.
Q. What's next for you?
A. I'm pastor of two churches, St. Ignatius at Boston College Chestnut Hill and St. Mary of the Angels in Roxbury, so I have a full plate to begin with. I teach dance at Boston College and we still will do work - dance integrating religious expression and worship services and things like that. . . . I will continue the ministry that I do and finding ways of integrating dance in the spiritual lives of people. MEGAN TENCH