Last year “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” was an experiment – how would audiences respond to hip hop dance being performed to Tchaikovsky’s famous score? But after 5,000 audience members attended two shows at the United Palace in Washington Heights and two sold out shows at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, it was clear that the metropolitan area had another hit holiday show on its hands.
The press loved it, too. Time Out New York called it “a classic rebooted.” CBS News said it “turns Tchaikovsky on his head in the coolest possible way.” And Elle magazine summed it up as “A truly one-of-a-kind experience, filled with high-powered choreography and a very modern storyline.”
On November 20 and 21 “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” returns to the United Palace (4140 Broadway at 175th Street) to kick off a 12-city tour, including Miami, Atlanta, St. Paul, Charleston, Charlotte, and Moscow, Russia.
The show features 11 dancers, DJ Boo, an electric violinist, and digital scenery that complements the adapted storyline, which locates the action to New Year’s Eve in contemporary Washington Heights. The adaptation is respectful of the traditional narrative with references to beloved touchstones like the Mouse King and growing tree.
To highlight the union of past and present, the special guest for the November 20 show is the “King of Rap” Kurtis Blow who charted the first rap gold record with “The Breaks” in 1980. (His other hits include “Basketball,” “Christmas Rappin’,” and “If I Ruled the World.”)
“I’m always excited about any undertaking that expands the culture of hip hop,” said Blow. “I feel blessed after 43 years to still be able to contribute.”
The November 21 matinee show is a benefit for youth arts programs at the United Palace of Cultural Arts (UPCA), the nonprofit that co-created the show with Decadancetheatre Company last year. UPCA’s student artists will provide pre-show entertainment.
Tickets for both United Palace shows are priced from $10-100.
The production inserts the vocabulary of hip hop movement to what has traditionally been a classical ballet, broadening the audience for the art form. The variety of styles represented (breaking, popping, locking, etc.) serve as a history lesson of hip hop dance.
“We were faithful to the music and let it drive the storytelling,” said director/choreographer Jennifer Weber of Decadeancetheatre. “The juxtaposition of the hip hop dance and classical music allows you to see the beauty of both in fresh ways, finding new rhythms in the music to accentuate. Since Tchaikovsky’s score doesn’t have a predictable beat, there is always a sense of surprise in the movement.”
United Palace performances:
- Opening night is Friday, November 20 at 8pm, with returning special guest Kurtis Blow, the “King of Rap.”
- The Saturday, November 21 matinee at 2pm benefits UPCA’s Performing Arts Academy.
Tickets: $10-$100 at www.unitedpalac.org/UPCA or call 866-811-4111
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Check out our review of the Hip-Hop Nutcracker: The Hip-Hop Nutcracker of Washington Heights – The Review