• Dance Review: ‘Nutcracker’ goes hip-hop
    By Jim Lowe
     | December 24,2012
    Jim Lowe / Staff photo

    Green Mountain Performing Arts’ “Hip-Hop Nutcracker” offers a modern twist to the holiday classic.

    DUXBURY — “The Nutcracker” has long been an American Christmas tradition, but count on Vermont to find a twist.

    Last year (and again this year), it was Moving Light Dance Company’s “Green Mountain Nutcracker” at the Barre Opera House, which added traditional and bluegrass elements to the original Tchaikovsky score.

    But now we have “Hip-Hop Nutcracker,” Green Mountain Performing Arts’ new version that all but forgets Tchaikovsky’s music. But it proved downright entertaining at the Saturday evening performance at Harwood Union School.

    Green Mountain Performing Arts is the Waterbury all-ages and all-levels dance and musical theater school that was once One Studio Dance. Originally a profit-making dance school, founder Laurie Flaherty transformed it into a nonprofit educational institution before turning it over to its current management.

    “Hip-Hop Nutcracker,” largely the creation of Ernest “E-Knock” Phillips, the school’s hip-hop director, encompasses a lot of hip-hop, but also other styles, including modern, jazz, Celtic and even a tiny bit of ballet. It loosely follows the original ballet with Claire (Clara) receiving the Nutcracka (Nutcracker) from Uncle Tony (Drosselmayer) and the adventures that ensue.

    Particularly entertaining was the fight between the mice and the toy soldiers. Rather than a fight, it was a hip-hop/breakdancing contest, in which a whole bunch of young kids participated at varying levels. It was quite impressive.

    The final battle, between the Nutcracka Prince (Phillips) and the Rat King (Calvin Walker), was a virtuoso hip-hop showcase. Of course, the Nutcracka Prince won.

    Visually beautiful was the Dance of the Snowflakes in which a bevy of beautifully lit ballerinas in tutus, led by instructor Taryn Noelle as the Snow Queen, led the audience to believe they might be watching the original classic — until it erupted into hip-hop.

    Dance school “Nutcrackers” are designed largely to employ all of the dance students of the school, and there were seemingly hundreds ranging in ages from under 10 through high school. Thus many of the dances stretched the story a bit — but it gave everyone a chance.

    Hip-hop gave the youngest dancers in particular the opportunity to shine, whereas ballet would only make them seem awkward. And some of the kids were truly amazing. Faculty members joined their students frequently and added to the electricity.

    “Hip-Hop Nutcracker” was a pretty informal affair, but it was packed with fun — and audience members hooted and hollered throughout.

    Green Mountain Performing Arts

    For information about the programs of Green Mountain Performing Arts, call 244-8600, or go online to www.greenmountainperformingarts.org.

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