BWW Reviews: United Palace of Cultural Arts Presents THE HIP HOP NUTCRACKER

By: Dec. 19, 2014
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Ever wonder what would happen to the classic tale of The Nutcracker if it was dropped into present day Upper Manhattan? Yea, me either really. But it sure did cross United Palace of Cultural Arts' (UPCA) mind this year when UPCA's executive director, Mike Fitelson, and choreographer Jennifer Weber rose to the challenge of co-creating The Hip Hop Nutcracker, which made its debut at United Palace Theater on Sunday, December 7th.

Although the tale of The Nutcracker is a traditional Christmas story that has proven to withstand the test of time, it is only natural that each production embodies its own unique style along the way. You could say that UPCA ran with this unique style a little more than most...but after pushing this age-old plot to its limits, they carefully re-stitched each piece together again in a whole new fashion to ultimately unveil a crowd-pleasing and uplifting saga just in time for the holiday season.

How did Fitelson and Weber fuse E.T.A. Hoffman's delicate story with the streets of modern day Washington Heights, you ask? By changing the plot pretty drastically. Sure, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Mouse King, Maria-Clara and Drosselmeyer were all accounted for among other familiar characters, but this time introduced in a new, contemporary, hip-hop dancing way. The gist of this updated story lies in the love found by Maria-Clara and Myron the Nutcracker, a boy who sells nuts out of a grocery cart. After Myron saves Maria-Clara from a street fight initiated by a gang wearing mouse ears, the couple escapes reality through an ice-skating pas de deux. Their pure and innocent love then helps teach Maria-Clara's bickering parents how to find their love again, and the story comes full circle.

Whether you are intrigued by this alternative version or prefer to remain a creature of habit, the creativity and effort behind this production's music, dance and sense of community is worth being commended. UPCA's Hip Hop Nutcracker came alive on stage by enticing choreography filled with ample breakdancing, tumbling and pop and lock skills, all while keeping rhythm to, dare I say it, DJ Boo's remix of Tchaikovsky's original score. As oxymoronic as that may sound, the turntable scratching and undertones oddly complimented the classic notes when paired with the energy and spirit on stage.

UPCA made it very clear to see how truly they embrace all arts without limitations through this performance's showcasing of various genres, experience levels, and ages. This diverse rendition may have Hoffman and Tchaikovsky rolling over in their graves, but Upper Manhattan seemed to be dancing along just fine to this Nutcracker's new beat.

Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes


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