THE BIRTHPLACE OF HIP HOP SETS THE STAGE FOR A CLASSIC HOLIDAY PRODUCTION GIVEN A CONTEMPORARY EDGE
BY AMANDA McCOY
In 1979, a 20 year old performer from Harlem named Kurtis Blow became the first rap artist to sign with a major label. Blow’s first single, “Christmas Rappin’”, would go on to sell 400,000 copies and put both the young artist and Hip Hop as a musical form on the map. Now, almost 40 years later, Blow is rapping about Christmas once again in a contemporary dance interpretation of a seasonal classic: A Hip Hop Nutcracker.
“What really drew me to want to be a part of this was the fusion of B boying (aka breakdancing) and [traditional] dance,” said Blow. “I love the combination of Hip Hop and theatre.”
Now in its fifth year, A Hip Hop Nutcracker has gained national attention, combining the talents of 12 dancers, an on stage DJ, and an electric violinist, with Blow acting as MC. The full length production is set to Tchaikovsky’s classic score, with remixed transitional and incidental music throughout. The original story, imagined by E.T.A. Hoffman in 1816, remains the same; MariaClara and the Nutcracker Prince embark on a fantastical journey to discover the true meaning of the holiday. Only this time, instead of 19th century Germany, the performance is set in modern day New York City digital graffiti and other visuals transforming the stage into the colorful streets of the Big Apple.
“The story is set here because this is the birthplace of Hip Hop,” added Blow, a native New Yorker himself. “We’re able to reinvent the classic because the story is universal. Even though the original takes place many years ago, it’s still relatable today. The miracle of love rings true no matter where you are and whatever the year is. The holiday season also has that spirit of love that’s so easy to express with Hip Hop. It was built on love.”
The production boasts celebrated names in the industry, including choreographer Jennifer Weber as director and choreographer and two time Tony Award winning producer Eva Price as executive producer. Weber’s resume includes the founding of, and directors position at, Decadancetheatre, a Brooklyn based Hip Hop theatre company. She was nominated for a New York Dance and Performance Award (aka, a “Bessie”) as Outstanding Emerging Choreographer and won two awards from the New York International Fringe Festival in the category of Excellence in Choreography.
The show officially began its holiday tour on November 8th and will come to Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre on December 23 (recently restored to its 1929 glory a $95 million project that included saving vintage carpet, fixtures, and seating).
“It’s been exciting to evolve the show over the last five years as audiences continue to come back to see the creative changes we make to the production,” added Weber. “The dancers raise the bar each year, too, which has taken things to new heights… literally.”
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