This season, The Hip Hop Nutcracker offers an energetic remix of an enduring classic.
“We are blending the worlds of classical dance and hip-hop in a way that makes you see both in a new way,” says choreographer Jennifer Weber.
The Nutcracker without tutus? Tchaikovsky’s evergreen ballet is getting a backstreet spin at The Strathmore this Christmas with The Hip Hop Nutcracker, on a US tour after sold-out shows in New York. A DJ and an electric violinist join a dozen dancers in hoodies and high-tops in this urban fairy tale, choreographed by Jennifer Weber.
“For me the beauty of art is the unexpected juxtaposition of cultures,” explains Weber. “We are blending the worlds of classical dance and hip hop in a way that makes you see both in a new way.”
It’s a far cry from Russian aristocrats and sugar plum fairies swathed in pastels, but this version captures the spirit of The Nutcracker, which for many is the soundtrack of the holiday season. The updated story takes place in 1985 in a nightclub where the main character, Maria Clara, witnesses the meeting of her parents, and the narrative is moved from Christmas Eve to December 31 to be more inclusive of non-Christian cultures.
“Most people who hear about our concept—hip-hop dance to classical music—don’t get it,” concedes co-creator Mike Fitelson, who teamed up with Weber in 2013 to sketch out the show. “Once they see how the artistic disciplines merge, how well they complement each other, they can’t believe no one has done it before.”
Both Fitelson and Weber wanted something that would translate the charms of Tchaikovsky’s 19th-century work for audiences with a taste for the contemporary. “We are using the original score as our main source of inspiration, although we do throw in a few original mixes as well,” explains Weber. “We are using the vocabulary of hip-hop dance the same way ballet choreographers use their vocabulary—to tell stories.”
And this story wouldn’t be complete without the whimsical characters. “The snowflakes, the mice, the soldiers,” Weber says, “all will have a hip-hop twist.” December 3 at 7:30 pm at The Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, 301-581-5100