The moment the calendar hits Nov. 1, every mall in America begins playing the music to The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky's beloved score is best recognized as the music for the classical ballet, but there is a fresh interpretation you might want to check out this holiday season.
Choreographer Jennifer Weber has created The Hip-Hop Nutcracker that draws its inspiration from the holiday tradition. With MC Kurtis Blow and DJ Boo kicking off the performance, the cast of 15 brings a re-imagining to the family favorite in a contemporary way.
The story is centered around a holiday party in New York City, where Maria-Clara's parents are fighting. Drosselmeyer casts a spell and sends her and The Nutcracker on a magical journey back to the 1980s to the Brooklyn nightclub on New Year’s Eve where her parents first met.
"I've always been interested in juxtaposing different worlds together because what is so fascinating about art is finding things you wouldn't think go together," Weber told Dance Dish Media during a rehearsal break in Los Angeles. "There is an instant dialogue between hip-hop dance, which is contemporary, and classical music, which is old. We are communicating."
This isn't Weber's first foray into hip-hop ballet. She first tackled Firebird because the story seemed aligned with hip-hop and it featured strong female roles for her crew. She moved onto The Four Seasons, then The Hip Hop Nutcracker and she recently did Stravinsky's Petrushka with Lil Buck, Tiler Peck and Brooklyn Mack at Fall For Dance in New York City.
The Hip Hop Nutcracker is already celebrating its fifth anniversary this year and is headed to 29 cities. Over time, the show has evolved into something bigger than Weber originally expected.
"Over the years, I've been lucky to have amazing casts," she explained. "As we develop it, we get clearer and clearer in our storytelling. I've been able to direct it more clearly to pinpoint what is the heart of this story."
The Hip Hop Nutcracker is a production for all audiences, whether they are classical ballet fans or they are looking for something different in a Nutcracker production.
"This is one of the most diverse audiences I've ever seen. It's very family-heavy," Weber shared. "We get straight-up ballet fans and straight-up hip-hop fans. Some come in to see MC Kurtis Blow, who does an old-school hip-hop set to start the show, and then it goes into Tchaikovsky."
Weber has even grander plans for The Hip Hop Nutcracker. She wants to make a film version of the show she created.
"I really feel like this could be a film. That's my goal," she summed up. "It's totally unique."
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