Tony Williams Dance Center presents the 17th year of the Boston holiday classic, Anthony Williams’ Urban Nutcracker, December 15-28 at John Hancock Hall (180 Berkeley St, Boston, MA 02116). This modern holiday classic has been praised as “a Nutcracker with real soul” by Boston Metro and “Greater Boston’s most diverse re-imagining of the E.T.A. Hoffmann tale” by The Boston Globe. This year includes a special Autism sensory-friendly performance, now an annual tradition, on Dec. 27.
In 2001, local dance legend Tony Williams re-imagined the classic holiday Nutcracker tale to become a Boston inner-city story with a neon-buzz, blending the rhythms of Duke Ellington with the classical music of Tchaikovsky. Annually, 150 performers – including professional ballet dancers – take the stage to showcase a broad diversity of dance forms starring the multicultural icons of Boston. Audiences will join heroine Clarice as she explores iconic Boston scenes such as Make Way for Ducklings, Top of the Hub, Chinatown, and the Boston Public Garden.
The delightful story continues by following the magical journey of Clarice and her Nutcracker guide through classical ballet, tap, hip hop, jazz, flamenco, and more. Fun for boys and girls alike, the Urban Nutcracker can be enjoyed by the whole family, and all ages!
The performances this year have several surprises in store for the audience:
Dorchester native, dancer Sean Fiedler of Broadway’s Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk, will return to the Urban Nutcracker, his first performance with the company since 2012. Sean started dancing at the age of 3 at the Roxbury Center for the Performing Arts. He was featured in Missy Elliot’s video The Rain and was selected for the national tour of Savion Glover’s Tony Award winning show Bring in Da Noise Bring in Da Funk.
Urban Nutcracker will also honor the iconic story of Make Way For Ducklings, written and illustrated in 1941 by Robert McCloskey. The production will partner with the Boston Police Department to invite an officer to play the role of “Officer Michael” at each performance. Representing a variety of neighborhoods and towns within Greater Boston, “Officer Michael” will lead the ducks, dancers ages 7-10, in their procession across the stage.
Russian ballerina Kseniya Melyukhina will dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and former Boston Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem dancer, Erika Lambe, will play Clarice’s mother.
Other production delights include the ‘50’s Doo-Wop group the G-Clefs and the Flamenco Dance project led by Sabrina Aviles. Dancer/choreographers Gino DiMarco and Brian Washburn are re-imagining Clarice’s dream Nutcracker and Rat King Battle Scene with a mix of hip-hop and balletic pointe work.
Tony Williams says of this year’s production, “I am so pleased to be presenting the Urban Nutcracker for the 17th year. It is very rewarding to have the Urban Nutcracker be accepted by the Greater Boston community and be known as an enduring holiday classic. It became clear that this production embraced multi-culturalism and represented a more inclusive holiday tradition. Our production draws in so many Boston influences and backdrops, it is really a show I created to honor Boston and our history.”
This season’s production includes the new sets and costumes originally designed for the 2015 “15th Anniversary” season of Urban Nutcracker. The stage comes alive with over 120 colorful costumes re-imagined by local artist Dustin Todd Rennells (originally designed by Rebecca Cross) and made by hand in Boston, India, and Russia. The dazzling costumes of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen were hand-beaded with over 450 Swarovski crystals on each costume.
The eye-catching sets by Janie Howland feature popular Boston landmarks like the Fenway Park scoreboard, the Citgo sign, and Downtown Boston. Of the sets, Howland says, “The redesigned sets for the Urban Nutcracker reflect the diversity of Boston’s neighborhoods and our place in the global community. Projections are used in Act II to add a fantastical element to the dream sequence and support the different nationalities represented in the dances. We are constantly upgrading the design to add some new surprises for the audiences.”
“Hip-hop holiday fun… [with] enthusiasm and a sense of inclusive community onstage.”
–The Boston Globe
“[Urban Nutcracker] continues to defy tradition while solidifying itself as a local holiday icon…You’ll find a menagerie of bright colors, modern dance, and a swinging score.”
– WGBH, Open Studio with Jared Bowen
“A modern take on the classic 19th century ballet.”
– NBC Boston
All performances of the Urban Nutcracker will take place at John Hancock Hall 180 Berkeley St, Boston:
|12/15 | 7:30pm, Opening Night||12/24 | 1:00pm|
|12/16 | 11:00am and 3:00pm||12/26 | 7:30pm|
|12/17 | 1:00pm and 5:00pm||12/27 | 7:30pm (Autism Sensory Friendly)|
|12/22 | 7:30pm||12/28 | 7:30pm|
|12/23 | 11:00am and 3:00pm|
All performances are approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission.
MBTA: Green Line to Arlington, Orange Line to Back Bay
About Urban Nutcracker and Tony Williams
The Urban Nutcracker celebrates multicultural Boston through a broad range of diverse dance styles. Produced by the Tony Williams Dance Center, the Urban Nutcracker harnesses the power the arts to unite diverse communities to be a catalyst for positive social change. Presenting sponsor of Urban Nutcracker is Adage Capital. Additional support is provided by Chobee Hoy Real Estate.
Tony Williams is a dance pioneer and retired international ballet star. Williams’ dance philosophy uses the arts to unite diverse communities in Boston, having had direct experience on how transformative the arts can be on young lives. As a young man, he gained access to Boston Ballet’s dance program and progressed to become a principal dancer. From there he danced with the Joffery Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and performed all over the world. When Williams retired, he returned to Jamaica Plain, where it all began, and opened a dance school. Not long after, he produced the beloved Urban Nutcracker which annually enjoys a successful run downtown. Widely respected as a progressive dance educator, Williams has won the Dance Teacher Magazine Award and Wheelock Family Theater’s Wheel Award. In 2014, he founded the Tony Williams Ballet and expanded his dance school to Concord, MA.