Arts Umbrella Dance Company shakes up traditional Nutcracker with new holiday performance

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      A group of aspiring professional dancers is challenging the norms of the classical Nutcracker ballet in a piece that features Tchaikovsky remixes, swing music, and Missy Elliott.

      Mixed Nuts is the Arts Umbrella Dance Company’s contemporary take on the famous Christmas ballet. It combines contemporary, jazz, hip-hop, and swing dance with classical ballet. The disco-era hustle also makes an appearance.

      Sally Hart, dance coordinator for the company, tells the Straight that the show is “more modern and...appeals to an audience that might find a two-hour classical ballet a little bit dull."

      The Nutcracker story line remains about the same, says Hart, but how it’s delivered is quite different. And hockey fans, take note.

      “At one point there are [dancers dressed as] snowboarders and hockey players,” Hart explains. “And the mouse-and-soldier battle is a full on hip-hop street battle.

      “It’s a highly entertaining mix that reflects the contemporary dance world today."

      The show features local choreographers Cindy Salgado from Kidd Pivot, and Ballet B.C.’s Livona Ellis, Rachael Prince, and Gilbert Small.

      Dancers between the ages of 16 and 20 dominate the show. Many of them will graduate from Arts Umbrella’s Professional Training Program in June and are expected to be hired by contemporary companies around the globe, including Ballet B.C.

      If artistic director Artemis Gordon’s reputation is any indication, the show will have been rehearsed to jaw-dropping perfection. While the dancers are still aspiring professionals, Gordon is known to hold her dancers to professional standards, and they are anything but amateur.

      This weekend’s performances cap off a run of shows that have been made available to over 4,000 elementary-school students for $2 each, as part of Arts Umbrella’s bid to make the performing arts accessible to young people.

      Three Mixed Nuts performances take place this Friday (December 18) and Saturday (December 19) at the Vancouver Playhouse (600 Hamilton Street).

      Tickets are available on Arts Umbrella's website.