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Rapid-fire changes part of holiday revue

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Greenwood native Natalee Cooney is one of six featured dancers at ''A Beef & Boards Christmas,'' a holiday variety show featuring both sacred music and other holiday songs.
Greenwood native Natalee Cooney is one of six featured dancers at ''A Beef & Boards Christmas,'' a holiday variety show featuring both sacred music and other holiday songs. PHOTO BY RYAN TRARES

For Natalee Cooney and the other five dancers in this year’s “A Beef & Boards Christmas,” the program will move at a dizzying pace.

One moment, they’ll be dancing Santas. The next, they’ll be Chicago-style tap dancers or a jazz ensemble. At one point, Cooney will dress as a giant, frolicking chipmunk.

The Greenwood native will be a featured dancer in this year’s “A Beef & Boards Christmas,” an annual holiday extravaganza at the Indianapolis dinner theater. The live show features a living nativity, a special salute to the military and a variety of tunes, from the poignancy of “Silent Night” to the tongue-in-cheek “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

Combining modern dance, ballet and theater, Cooney is looking forward to capturing the spirit of the season through the movement of her body.

“As an artist, part of being able to express yourself creatively is getting the audience to feel something too,” she said. “You get on stage, and you let it go.”

If you go

What: “A Beef & Boards Christmas”

When: Nov. 29 to Dec. 23

Times: 6:30 p.m. buffet, 8 p.m. curtain Tuesday through Saturday evenings; 11:45 a.m. buffet, 1 p.m. curtain weekday matinees; 12:15 p.m. buffet, 1:30 p.m. curtain Saturday and Sunday matinees; 5:30 p.m. buffet, 7 p.m. curtain Sunday evenings.

Where: Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 Michigan Road, Indianapolis

Tickets: $37 to $50 Tuesday through Thursday; $47 to $60 Friday and Saturday; $42 to $55 Sunday.

Information: beefandboards.com

Cooney has been dancing for more than 20 years. A shy child, she discovered a way to position herself in the spotlight while attending a Center Grove High School basketball game.

A local dance group was performing at halftime, and she was mesmerized with the choreographed movements.

“I turned to my mom and said, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” Cooney said. “I have amazing supportive parents who put me in dance, and I’ve never looked back.”

After studying dance throughout her childhood, she attended the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Eventually, she earned a master’s degree in fine arts from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

For the past nine years, she has lived in Indianapolis. She was offered an apprenticeship with the Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre, a contemporary professional group in Carmel. Cooney still performs with the troupe as a full company member.

Cooney has acted or performed in dozens of shows, such as the Indianapolis Civic Theatre’s “A Chorus Line” and “Reincarnation,” a retrospective of Gregory Hancock’s work. Her experience with the civic theater led to her auditioning and eventually landing a spot with Beef & Boards.

So far, she’s been impressed with the manic pace of preparing for the Christmas shows. With 34 performances between opening night on Nov. 29 and the close on Dec. 23, they have little time to waste getting every move right.

“We’ve had two rehearsals so far. They’ve thrown me right into the mix,” Cooney said.

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