A year before Hamilton hit Broadway, the touring dance show Hip Hop Nutcracker was already using hip-hop to shake up the stage—in this case, the world of ballet. Now in its fourth season, Hip Hop Nutcracker has begun its 2017 tour around the country and will stop at the State Theatre in Minneapolis November 21 and 22. The show is directed and choreographed by Jennifer Weber, artistic director of Brooklyn-based theatrical hip-hop dance company Decadancetheatre.
If you’re like me, you yawned through old movies of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet as a kid. This revamped performance is an opportunity to revisit a holiday season classic with the promise of an all-star cast of entertainers.
“Hip-hop in its very nature is a social dance—and a social movement!—and thus creates a fun, energetic party on stage,” said Randi Freitas, who dances the role of the Mouse King. “It also is the embodiment of unity. You’ll notice not only the dance moves, but the connection between the cast themselves that feeds the connection to the audience and brings them into our celebration of movement. It also allows for a more modern take on the story, more relatable to today’s society versus taking a peek back into older times.”
Hip Hop Nutcracker features the same classically acclaimed music (with a few modern interludes) but livens up the familiar story with a whole new attitude.
“The main challenge is the music,” Freitas said. “We are all used to moving to a very different kind of rhythm, timing, and beat! For some of the cast members, it’s their first time performing to classical music. Each style of hip-hop and club dance was created to a certain style of music: funk, break beats, house, disco, etc. We have to take that movement and now apply it to an entirely different genre of music.”
The reimagined story follows Maria-Clara and her nutcracker prince after a mysterious magician casts them back in time to the night her parents met in a nightclub. Digital scenery creates a romantic backdrop of Brooklyn in the 1980s, which stands in stark contrast to the usual stiff European elegance that dominates the ballet. Freitas said she didn’t want to give away any surprises, but know that there are some unexpected twists to the characters and that the story that will give a fresh new angle on this holiday-season mainstay.
“I can tell you you will see people fly, spin, and move in some amazing ways!” she said.
Hip-hop legend Kurtis Blow will appear as the special guest emcee, performing a short warmup act before the show before kicking things off by rapping the introduction. DJ Boo and electric violinist Emily Simone also add new, supercharged musical elements to this unique production.
Tickets for Hip Hop Nutcracker are $28.50 and can be purchased on the Hennpin Theatre Trust website or by calling the box office at (800) 982-2787.