When people think of "The Nutcracker," hip-hop isn't usually the first thing that comes to mind.
But for director/co-creator/choreographer Jennifer Weber, who heads the national tour of "The Hip Hop Nutcracker," it was.
"It makes perfect sense that when we would translate 'The Nutcracker' that we sort of look at the most classic elements and bring them to life in a new way" through hip-hop, whose culture is based on sampling other things, Weber said.
The national tour of this hip-hop show, set to the full Tchaikovsky "Nutcracker" score, will perform for the second year at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at the State Theatre at Playhouse Square. The holiday mash-up, a contemporary re-imagination set in New York, features 12 dancers, digital scenery, a DJ and an electric violinist. With the help of Drosselmeyer's spells, heroine Maria-Clara and her Nutcracker prince travel back in time to the 1980s, to the moment when her parents met in a nightclub.
"You're going to see snowflakes doing windmills and head spins and what we call power moves,'' said Weber, speaking Nov. 12 from New York.
This breaking, popping and locking cast wears street-inspired costumes. The action starts at a block party in Manhattan, where Maria-Clara's parents are fighting. The teen goes in search of a nerdy but cute nut vendor she saw on the street and ends up battling the Mouse King.
The nut vendor, aka the Nutcracker, gains some mad dance skills with the help of magic sneakers and "he does some very epic head spins to finally defeat the Mouse King,'' Weber said.
Cost for "The Hip Hop Nutcracker" is $20-$55. See www.playhousesquare.org.
"Hip Hop Nutcracker" premiered six years ago in Washington Heights and its tour, in its fifth year, is produced by by New Jersey Performing Arts Center. See some of the action at www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=B8uI8AjpXqs.
"It just really brings people together," said Weber, who said the show appeals to hip-hop lovers, ballet lovers and classical music lovers.
Here's a sampling of other "Nutcracker" performances in the Akron and Cleveland areas this holiday season.
Ballet Theatre of Ohio
Ballet Theatre of Ohio kicks off the "Nutcracker" season Saturday through Dec. 2 with six performances at the Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St. The company is performing the holiday ballet for the 26th straight season, this year highlighting retiring professional dancers Damien Highfield, formerly of GroundWorks DanceTheatre, and BTO alumna Megan Stuart. Highfield has danced in BTO's "Nutcracker" for 18 years and Stuart for 10.
Highfield, who plays the Cavalier, Snow King and Arabian Prince, will share the stage with daughters Fallon and Aelwyn. Stuart will play the Sugar Plum Fairy.
"It's very sad to see them go. They've been such a huge part of our company,'' said artistic director Christine Meneer.
The ballet features 114 adult and student dancers. Meneer's daughter, Kelly Meneer, 33, who is ballet mistress and marketing director for BTO, will play Clara's mother.
The performances, which have become a multigenerational tradition for many families, include activities in the Civic lobbies including Santa's Workshop, a Gingerbread Room and photos with Santa. An army of 150 volunteers decks the Civic lobbies, including a 12-foot Christmas tree in the Grand Lobby featuring pointe shoes decorated like Nutcracker characters and another in the Mezzanine Lobby covered with Nutcrackers.
"We do make it very magical for families to come,'' Meneer said.
Cost is $40-$50. Performances run 2 and 7 p.m. Saturdays and 2 pm. Sundays. See akroncivic.com.
For the fourth consecutive year in Mansfield, Neos Dance Theatre will present its original "A 1940s Nutcracker" Dec. 8-9 at the historic Renaissance Theatre, 138 Park Ave. W.
The company blends classical ballet and contemporary dance in this original work by Robert Wesner, a retelling of the classic that takes audiences through scenes from World War II-era Mansfield. The show uses projection mapping technology to create a virtual 1940s Mansfield. High-tech features include scrolling historic images and animated visual effects by Andy Gardner and Kathy Hilton.
"A 1940s Nutcracker" pays homage to an iconic age of film, fashion, American Christmas traditions and the industrial age. This story has Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who were married at Malabar Farm in Richland County, taking the place of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier. They will again be danced by artistic director Wesner and his wife, Brooke.
Other characters from the era are Rosie the Riveter, Mae West and Shirley Temple. Students from the Findlay Academy of Ballet will dance in the Mansfield show.
Guests are invited to dress in their favorite 1940s couture and enjoy a history display featuring 1940s fashions in the theater lobby.
Shows will run in Mansfield at 8 p.m. Dec. 8 and 2 p.m. Dec. 9. A VIP reception, which costs $50 and includes cocktails and hors d'oeuvres before the show, will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 8. Show tickets start at $15. For reservations, call 419-522-2726 or see mansfieldtickets.com.
At the Mansfield performances, guests are asked to bring Socks for Seniors. The drive, sponsored by the Area Agency on Aging and ACT, will distribute socks to residents at local nursing homes.
The company also will perform the show at 11 a.m. Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15 and 2 p.m. Dec. 16 at Stocker Arts Center, Lorain County Community College, 1005 N. Abbe Road, Elyria. The scenes for this run will be tailored to historical Lorain County sites, with backdrops including the Palace Theatre and Lighthouse, National Tube Co. and the Chronicle-Telegram. Students from the Neos Center for Dance in Oberlin and surrounding communities will be part of the cast.
Tickets cost $15 to $35. Call 440-366-4040 or see lorainccc.edu/stocker.
New York City Ballet principal dancers Sterling Hyltin and Joseph Gordon will star in the Canton Ballet's holiday showpiece "The Nutcracker" Dec. 7-9 at the historic Canton Palace Theatre, 605 Market Ave. N., Canton. Hyltin, a 15-year member of NYCB, will return after receiving standing ovations as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Canton last year. Gordon, a six-year NYCB member, will make his Canton performance premiere as the Cavalier.
Canton Ballet, a pre-professional company, has been performing "The Nutcracker" since 1984. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 and 2 p.m. Dec. 9. Cost is $21-$25, or $17-$19 for children under 18. Call 330-455-7220 or see www.cantonballet.com.
'Great Russian Nutcracker'
Over-the-top scenery and world-class artists from the Moscow Ballet will be featured in the "Great Russian Nutcracker" at 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 22 at Music Hall at Cleveland Public Auditorium, 500 Lakeside Ave., Cleveland.
The central symbol of this "Nutcracker" is the Dove of Peace, a multicultural representation of purity and peace. Played by a ballerina and a partner who each wear a wing with a 10-foot span, the Dove leads heroine Masha and her Nutcracker Prince into the Land of Peace and Harmony rather than the Land of Sweets.
Cultures come together in the Land of Peace and Harmony, where 12-foot-tall puppets represent classical Russian myth as well as cultures of Spain, Arabia and France. This year, newly designed puppets by Valentin Fedorov include a balalaika-playing Russian bear that bestows strength and a French unicorn that imparts imagination.
The Moscow Ballet is touring North America for the 26th consecutive year. Scores of children from each city across the United States and Canada, including in the Akron-Cleveland area, perform as mice, party children, snowflakes and snow maidens on stage with the professional Russian dancers. Three tours are running simultaneously to a total of 130 North American cities.
Tickets range from $28 to $175. Call 800-745-3000 or see www.nutcracker.com/buy-tickets.
The Cleveland Ballet, which had a sold-out run of the "Nutcracker Suite" last year at Playhouse Square, will return to the Hanna Theatre to perform the full-length "Nutcracker" Dec. 12-16. Performances will be 7 p.m. Dec. 12 and 13, 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 14, 1 and 7 p.m. Dec. 15 and 1 and 6 p.m. Dec. 16.
Limited seats remain, with most availability at the 11 a.m. performance Dec. 14; the Dec. 12 show was added to the schedule on Monday.
The two-act ballet is based on the original story of E.T.A. Hoffman set to Tchaikovsky's music. The production, which will be the company’s first full-length performance of the timeless seasonal favorite, is directed by artistic director Gladisa Guadalupe and incorporates Northeast Ohio-area children. Cost is $25-$79. Call 216-241-6000 or see www.playhousesquare.org.
Beck Center for the Arts will host a Holiday Tea Party at the Music & Dance Building, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, at 4 and 7 p.m. Dec. 1 ($12) and 1 and 4 p.m. Dec. 2 ($16). The event, hosted by Dance Alliance of Beck Center, will feature excerpts from "The Nutcracker" performed by members of Beck Center Dance Workshop and selected dancers. Proceeds will benefit the Dance Education program. Call 216-521-2540 or see www.beckcenter.org.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.