Review: DORRANCE DANCE: NUTCRACKER SUITE at Kennedy Center

A swinging way to start the holiday season.

By: Dec. 04, 2023
Review: DORRANCE DANCE: NUTCRACKER SUITE at Kennedy Center
Get Access To Every Broadway Story

Unlock access to every one of the hundreds of articles published daily on BroadwayWorld by logging in with one click.




Existing user? Just click login.

The New York City based tap ensemble Dorrance Dance roared into Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theatre this past weekend with their take on Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite as arranged by Billy Strayhorn. For those of you not familiar with this recording, do yourself a favor and look it up. You have not lived until you have heard “Waltz of the Flowers”, or in this case, “Floreodores” played with a swinging horn section. Trust me on this one.

For those that do know the recording, you know that it is only 35 minutes or so in length, which does not make for a full evening of dance. To combat this problem, the company did a couple of things. One was more successful than the other.

Review: DORRANCE DANCE: NUTCRACKER SUITE at Kennedy Center
Dorrance Dance's Nutcracker Suite.
Photo by Christopher Duggan.

I’ll start with the better choice. In between variations, there were a few tap numbers performed without any music which showed off the dancers in their purest form. The one performed to the hum of the snow machine motors made for a very ethereal feel as Clara and her Nutcracker were transported to a far-off land. I found this to be a nice addition to the main work.

What should have worked better than it did was the curtain raiser section of the evening entitled An Ella’quent Holiday Swing. It featured a nifty trio of musicians playing arrangements of songs for the season modeled after Ella Fitzgerald and Frank DeVol. The charts were adapted for this occasion by lead vocalist Aaron Marcellus and Gregory Richardson. This all sounds like a great idea to expand the program but because each of the songs performed featured some very talented company dancers and special guests performing tap routines, you lost the words to the songs. Mind you, I knew almost all of the songs and I had a hard time distinguishing the lyrics over all the tapping. All this section needed was a longer sound check to make it succeed.

With principal choreography by Michelle Dorrance and Josette Wiggan, each of the variations really shined. “Sugar Rum Cherry”, as performed by Wiggen,was a particular standout and I still want to know how they got all of those adult dancers inside Mother Ginger’s dress designed by Carolyn Mraz with almost no room upstage behind it.

Review: DORRANCE DANCE: NUTCRACKER SUITE at Kennedy Center
Dorrance Dance's Nutcracker Suite.
Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Overall, Dorrance Dance’s Nutcracker Suite did put this ornery reviewer and the audience in the holiday spirit. For those that want a rolling bass line to start your Nutcracker off or a trumpet section swinging the figures of “Peanut Brittle Brigade” this is the show for you. The tap is off the charts and let’s face it, anytime you get to see a dance company at their very best performing their own take on a classic of modern jazz, everyone benefits.

Running Time: 65 minutes with no intermission.

Dorrence Dance: Nutcracker Suite was a three-performance engagement in the Eisenhower Theatre at Kennedy Center on December 1st through 3rd, 2023.

Lead Photo: Dorrance Dance's Nutcracker Suite. Photo by Christopher Duggan.




Videos