Posted by: Staff | 04.02.2008

"The Urban Nutcracker" Presents a Fresh Spin on a Classic

JEHANE SAMAHA ’09

This past holiday season, I had the privilege of attending both the classical Nutcracker and the Urban Nutcracker. Both productions got a little tiresome after a while. It was difficult to sit through an incredibly long performance that I already knew mostly by heart. After being overdosed on the Nutcracker music through television commercials and holiday shopping music, that extra bit of magic was lost. Overall, the differences in audience and in production quality were striking.
Many people are unaware that the Urban Nutcracker even exists. However, it has been around for a while and is well worth seeing. It presents a very creative, fresh, entertaining take on the classical story. The Urban Nutcracker was created by renowned dancer Anthony Williams, who grew up in a Boston housing project. He found great opportunity and success in the world of dance, and he created the Urban Nutcracker to open up this same world to the children of Boston.

This show is a bright explosion of colorful sets and costumes. Elements of tap, jazz, flamenco, swing, hip-hop, and step are infused into the choreography at many points in the show. From do-op groups to step teams, this performance has it all. The cast is incredibly diverse, containing dancers of all ages and backgrounds. The dance company, Ballet Rox, emphasizes opportunity and diversity, bringing kids and adults from all around the Boston area together in one joyful, edgy performance.
Student dancers, such as Hannah Riggs, a Junior here at Beaver, have the fabulous opportunity to play great roles in the Urban Nutcracker. This year Ms. Riggs danced many roles, including an Arabian dancer, a candy-cane dancer, a party girl, and a soldier. One evening, she was even given the opportunity to perform a solo. In contrast, had Ms. Riggs chosen to perform in the Boston Ballet Nutcracker, her height would have limited her, forcing her to play a small role, such as that of a reindeer.

If you are bored by traditional ballet, then the Urban Nutcracker would definitely be a perfect holiday outing for you. The casual atmosphere and funky vibe is a great twist to a regular, snowy December evening. I recommend that you book your tickets early to get seats as close to the stage (and the action!) as possible. Also, it is important not to go to the last performance that is offered. According to Ms. Riggs, the dancers do not put very much effort into the last performance of the season. The Urban Nutcracker often comes off as less professional than the Boston Ballet Nutcracker, but do not let this perception bother you; the mood of the show is very positive and the entire experience is very entertaining.

The traditional Boston Ballet Nutcracker is a completely different experience. The classical music is performed by a live orchestra, the costumes are impeccable, and the lighting is dazzling. There is no lack of dancers to play minor roles, and the major roles are played by incredible professional ballerinas. Even the young dancers who play the party guests are very well trained and handle quite complicated choreography. This Ballet is performed by members of the Boston Ballet and of the Boston Ballet School. This production is much more established as a holiday tradition in Boston. Little girls dress up in puffy pink satin dresses and wear tiaras to see this show. Although the classical Nutcracker is very prestigious, it may not be the right show to satisfy your holiday craving. This show indeed dazzles the senses, but for those among us with short attention spans, this performance can come off as mind-numbingly long.

I deeply enjoyed many parts of both of these performances. Between the two of them, there is something for everybody. It is a great holiday experience to see one or both of these productions, and I enthusiastically recommend either one.

For Further Reading and Ticket Information for next Christmas:
http://www.jamaicaplaingazette.com/node/650
http://www.bostonballet.org/nutcracker/default.html
http://www.balletrox.org/

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