Wed, July 17

Y.E.S. The ARC annual Holiday Dinner Dance

Penny Vigil

Penny Vigil

Y.E.S. The Arc of Cottonwood held its 34th annual Holiday Dinner Dance Celebration at the Sedona Hilton Resort Saturday.

Dinner was served to more than 300 guests and the evening's activities were capped with dancing to the rhythms of The Mogollon Band, featuring Duane Moore. Between those two events, the Y.E.S. The Arc performers entertained the guests with a musical 'drama' entitled, Santa's Got the Blues.

The opening scene shows business as usual at the North Pole on Christmas Eve. Elves are loading Santa's sleigh with presents, the reindeer team is preparing for the trip, and Santa and Mrs. Claus are standing by. Santa is not happy. He cut himself shaving and had to remove his beard. Then he found out that Mrs. Claus has been called away on a family matter.

Santa sinks into depression and refuses to mount the sleigh to make the deliveries to all the children eagerly awaiting his visit. From there, the elves, the reindeer, even the angels work hard to persuade Santa to cheer up and do his job in bringing cheer to the world.

Their efforts are in the form of singing and dancing to several familiar Christmas songs and hymns. Then at Rudolph's suggestion, an assemblage of Blues musicians gets involved. They are The Blues Man Group, whose members include five Arc performers and band directors Sunny Heartley and Dave Sorensen.

They play Santa a few tunes - the highlight being the rousing vocals and instrumentals of The Santa Blues, written by Dave Sorensen and Arc band members.

That helps and when the Arc angels glide through the scene, swirling around Santa, his spirit is brightened and he is filled with the joy of his mission. He embarks on his world journey amid the cheers and joy of all the elves, angels, musicians and the reindeer.

The music that makes up the show is sung by members of the Arc chorus and the dancing is continuous, and continuously enchanting, around Santa. Stewart Petterson, as Santa, again displays his vitality and his rhythmic talent as he dances and romps to all the tunes.

Chris Gosser put in some time at the keyboard between taking the lead in several of the songs. Jessica Ryberg sang a solo, One Bright Star - a wonderfully spiritual moment in the evening.

For the finale, the entire company sang the very beautiful hymn, O Holy Night, with April Palmer of the Verde Valley Voices joining Chris Gosser for solo highlights.

It was a perfect envelope in which to wrap this inspirational performance of the Arc performers and brought the entire audience to its feet with a thunderous ovation.

The enthusiasm of the Arc troupe and their love of performing for us is reflected by the love and appreciation we feel for them.

As once written, and worth repeating, "When you experience this much exuberance and such an abundance of talent, perhaps Down Syndrome might better be referred to as Up Syndrome."

Jennifer Schauffler-Vircsik (director/choreographer), Ginna Buchanan-Leuenberger (script writer, costume designer), Sunny Heartley (narrator and band director) and so many others have given us another memorable Y.E.S. The Arc Christmas event. And we hope and pray there will be many more in the future.