Classical ballet and break dancing do not traditionally coincide, but Jennifer Weber and Mike Fitelson’s hip-hop adaptation of The Nutcracker has been touring the nation for more than five years now and is returning to Tacoma this November at the Pantages Theatre.
The contemporary take on Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s timeless ballet first gained recognition on Broadway in 2014. The Hip Hop Nutcracker is a new story — which samples songs and pays homage to the traditional tale — celebrating love, community, and magic of the holiday season.
Although many classic characters are revitalized in this variation of the ballet, it is set in the modern-era US. and is musically accompanied by a performance DJ and a violinist, who give the iconic score a hip-hop flavor as the dancers perform reimagined routines choreographed by Weber, an industry veteran and the show director. The production also is emceed by legendary founding father of hip-hop, Kurtis Blow.
Regarded as the first rapper to become a household name, Blow’s 1979 hit, Christmas Rappin’, was critical in popularizing hip-hop to a commercial audience. His song, The Breaks, released the following year, is recognized as the first certified gold hip-hop record. Even today as Blow works as an ordained minister, his numerous hits still get sampled in popular modern hip-hop songs.
“The creators have done an enormously awesome job at putting this thing together, making changes for the better every time,” Blow said. “They’ve been constantly evolving and making this play the enormous hit that it is.
Blow, who has worked with artists including Whitney Houston, Run DMC, and Bob Dylan, said the group Weber assembled has some of the most skilled performers he’s worked with.
“The creators have assembled a group of young individuals who are creative and talented,” Blow said. “It’s special just to be a part of it.”
Although break dancing is not the traditional form of dance associated with classical music, Blow explained that the blend of classical and hip-hop music is quite natural.
“Classical music is the basis of all music theory,” Blow said. “In school, when we are taught music theory, they often use classical music to identify instrument groups, keys, and circle of fifths. Classical music can fuse with any other form of music. It is a natural evolution of progression.”
The show in Tacoma will begin with a short opening performance by Blow, who will rap some of his most iconic songs and speak about the meaning of the Christmas. The tour makes it to Tacoma on Nov. 15, and the performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be found on The Pantages Theatre’s website.