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Hip-hop meets Tchaikovsky? Sign me up!


Hip-hop meets Tchaikovsky? Sign me up! The latest stop for the Hip Hop Nutcracker was Denver's own DCPA Buell Theater. Though it may not be the ballet you're used to, this rendition brings classical into the contemporary space.

Before the start of the show, Host and Emcee Kurtis Blow, along with resident DJ, DJ Boo, kicked things off with a quick journey through music, revisiting some classic hip-hop songs throughout the decades. Kurtis Blow, one of the founders and creators of recorded rap, is an icon among his peers.

The first characters we really meet are Mom and Dad danced by Lily Frias and Bryan Longchamp, respectively. Both Frias and Longchamp brought a sense of uniqueness to their dancing that was so different from the other's, though complementary to the story they told as a pair. As the Drosselmeyer, Lisa "L-Boogie" Bauford successfully toed the line between being playful and mischievous, especially when the real enemy came to town. As the Mouse King (Queen), Randi "Rascal" Freitas was, for having been the villain, quite fun and comedic in their performance. Freitas plays quadruple-duty on this tour as not only a cast member, but Associate Director, Choreographer, and Dance Captain.

As the darling ingenue Maria-Clara, Ann-Sylvia Clark brings a pure-hearted nature necessary for the role. She dances with a certain effervescence that differs from the rest of the dancers. In the role of The Nutcracker, Gabriel Emphasis is the perfect Prince Charming with a charisma that is amplified in his dancing and a smile that won't quit. Emphasis is so delightful in his pursuit of attraction to Clark's Maria-Clara.

Rounding out the ensemble is Anthony "Omen" Cabrera, Jackie "JK-47" Agudo, Dustin "DPayne" Payne, Zuce Morales, Seth "Reaktion" Hillard, Jon "Gifted" Jimenez, Etan Evaro (Swing), and violinist Jarvis L. Benson who provided musical interludes at various points throughout the performance during scene changes. Benson's playing was a perfect match to the company's dancing.

What I loved most about this ensemble is how cohesively they performed together while not sacrificing their individuality. It really felt like each of them brought a sort of signature move to the table and were able to highlight those things while also contributing to the structure of choreographed routines. I also got personal enjoyment out of the audience around my own seat. The excitement from the children in the rows was electrifying. It is no secret that the dance/ballet industry is predominately white, just like many arts industries. When I see performances, most often the performers and the audience members are majority white. It was refreshing to not only see performers of color on stage in roles that do not require them to be anything other than a great dancer, but also that the little black boy just a few seats down from me sitting on the edge of his seat the entire time could imagine himself one day dancing in a hip-hop version of The Nutcracker.

For more information on their national tour and how to get tickets, visit

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