by Sam Bromberg
A modern twist on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Hip Hop Nutcracker was far from traditional. While the show, performed on Dec. 5 and 6 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, has interesting and dynamic choreography that showcases the incredible talent of the dancers, the re-imagination of the ballet strays too far from the original.
Kurtis Blow, an icon in the early rap genre, was a special guest emcee at the performance, incorporating old school hip hop into the show. The show begins with the audience on its feet, singing and dancing animatedly along to original hip hop music. However, this feels out of place, given that the original Nutcracker is such a traditional performance.
The Hip Hop Nutcracker was directed and choreographed by Jennifer Weber of the award-winning hip hop company Decadancetheatre, according to njpac.org. Weber does a commendable job fusing intense hip hop dancing with the classic Nutcracker music; it is clear that the dancers are true professionals.
Also, Tchaikovsky’s original score remains intact throughout the show, with only a few scenes that incorporate electronic hip hop music and classical violin solos. This consistency improves the overall experience of the performance because it stays true to the original, despite the modern twists.
However, some of these changes can be a little disconcerting for the audience. Clara, traditionally portrayed as sweet and innocent, is absurdly transformed into a love interest for the Nutcracker, an unexpected twist that distracts from an otherwise talented performance.
Moreover, the production is set in contemporary New York City with grafittied backdrops and eccentric costumes. These small touches detract from the classical and magical themes of the original Nutcracker.
The Hip Hop Nutcracker is a little too funky fresh for Christmas tradition.