Thursday Dec. 20th: lights go up on Nut/Cracked, now in it's 10th season, at New York Live Arts. David Parker and The Bang Group along with several casts of teen dancers from all over the city, perform this comic/subversive, neo-vaudeville version of The Nutcracker, that has become a holiday tradition for many families. Set to various arrangements from multiple genres of the music from the Nutcracker Suite, beginning to end, Nut/Cracked is a masterful mash-up of nostalgia, artistry, and fun.
In anticipation of this anniversary, I caught up with company members and fans of the show in order to unearth and bring to light some of what makes people return again and again to Nut/Cracked.
"I love the feeling of seeing people's faces after the performances and seeing how much they enjoyed themselves. I think a common reaction from people is their surprise in how much fun they had. They never would have expected such delight and joy from a modern dance show," company member Amber Sloan, shared via email. Sloan, who has been in the show since its premiere in Genoa, Italy in 2003, described the work as, "a series of vignettes that cross over almost every style of dance. It doesn't follow the traditional Nutcracker storyline and there are no defined characters, yet you will be taken on a journey from the moment the lights go up. Be ready to be dazzled. It's a Nutcracker like no other."
Arlene Hellerman is a New York-based writer who has followed and admired David Parkers' work for 20 years. Hellerman brings her daughter, now age five, to Nut/Cracked every year. "David is incredibly distinctive because his work is not only influenced by history and a broad spectrum of movement styles, but he integrates them -- weaving together ballet, tap, broadway, classical film dancing (like Gene Kelley and Fred Astaire), and, of course, modern dance in his pieces. He is one of the few truly innovative choreographers working today."
The Bang Group is known for work that is very human and humorous. "Anyone who has performed in, seen or heard the music of The Nutcracker is usually intrigued, but expects a spoof of the original. When they see the show, they are usually surprised by the generous spirit of Nut/Cracked. It's familiar but new -- different interpretations of the music, many "inside" ballet references, elements of the original (the tree, the snow, the waltz of the flowers) are there, but one sees them in an entirely new way," said company member, Kathy Kaufman.
No Nutcracker is complete without a cast of children and Nut/Cracked has successfully turned this into an opportunity to give kids a chance to perform. "There is nothing more valuable and exciting for a dance student than to take part in a performance along professional dancers. When the performance is David Parker's Nut/Cracked at NYLA the young dancers have a blast! Wonderful as that moment is, it's only the grand finale of a process that begins at rehearsals. At Sinatra, we are fortunate to have Jeffery Kazin (company member and Director) set the piece and work with the students. He brings to the studio all the rigor, passion and humor from the dance world. I am proud and grateful that The Bang Group keeps inviting us back -- this will be our third time participating," said Ani Udovicki, Director of the Dance Department at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.
Final words belong to Marion Koltun Dienstag (former Executive Director of DTW -- now NYLA): "The work is delicious, joyful, delightful, intelligent, clever and integrates the audience on numerous levels -- generationally, in terms of dance vocabulary, cultural expectations, community integration, levels of challenge to the mind and heart...and then of course...there is the music! Nut/Cracked unpacks the traditional holiday Nutcracker through a post modern dance lens that will make you feel as if you have just eaten a big plate of your very favorite holiday sweets and joyfully, not gained one pound."
The show runs: Dec 20 - 22 at 7:30pm, Dec 22 at 2pm
For Ticket: visit NYLA's website.