The Tulane Hullabaloo

Hip Hop Nutcracker dazzles with new twist on old classic

Dancers+flip+in+the+air+on-stage+during+a+production+of+the+Hip-Hop+Nutcracker.+The+show+has+toured+across+the+country.
Dancers flip in the air on-stage during a production of the Hip-Hop Nutcracker. The show has toured across the country.

Dancers flip in the air on-stage during a production of the Hip-Hop Nutcracker. The show has toured across the country.

Courtesy of Timothy Norris

Courtesy of Timothy Norris

Dancers flip in the air on-stage during a production of the Hip-Hop Nutcracker. The show has toured across the country.

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For better or for worse, the end of Thanksgiving has ushered in the holiday season. This means twinkling lights, ABC’s 25 Days of Christmas and, most importantly, music. Some of the most famous Christmas songs come from Tchaikovsky’s instantly recognizable The Nutcracker.

The ballet premiered in 1892 and is a long-standing Christmas tradition. Though you may not know the name of individual songs, many of them are ubiquitous with the holiday season. Every aspect of the show, from scenery to costumes to choreography, is frequently replicated in popular culture.

The Hip Hop Nutcracker, however, which came to New Orlean’s Saenger Theater in a one-night-only sold-out show, offers a fresh perspective on the traditional Nutcracker. The show is touring nationally performing almost every night in a new city.

According to its website, “The Hip Hop Nutcracker re-imagines Tchaikovsky’s classic score through explosive hip hop choreography. A dozen all-star dancers, on-stage DJ and an electric violinist bring the traditional Nutcracker story to life in contemporary New York City.”

Courtesy of Timothy Norris

The Hip Hop Nutcracker, whose slogan is "Tchaikovsky’s Score, Hip Hop Dance, NYC Style," came to New Orleans for one night only of spectacular dance and performance.

While the storyline generally remains the same, there are slight changes. For starters, it takes place on New Year’s Eve and in Brooklyn. There is an LED background, which changes with the songs, providing backgrounds ranging from the Brooklyn Bridge to New York subway tunnels.

It does not follow the original song order, instead arranging them in a slightly different way that allows for a more dynamic, fast-paced story to be told. The most notable change was the violinist on stage who played live music.

The visual story presented allows viewers to see the blending of two unlikely mediums: hip-hop and Tchaikovsky. The juxtaposition between the two results in a stunning performance that is both exciting and innovative.

The show is an impressive display of hip-hop with plenty of popping, locking and whacking. The dancers also use great facial expressions and body language that helped to convey the story they tell.

Randi Fleckenstine, who plays the Mouse Queen, discussed what went into the role.

We really get to embrace our characters,” Fleckenstine said. “Part of the exciting part of this show is that we are not only dancing. We may not be speaking lines, but we are still acting. And you will leave knowing the personality of every character on that stage!”

hip hop nutcracker

Courtesy of Timothy Norris
Randi Fleckenstine plays the Mouse Queen. She is a a member of The Beat Freaks Crew as well as a professional hip-hop dancer living in Los Angeles.

The group dances and duets also made for captivating combinations. The duets included Clara and the Nutcracker as well as Clara’s parents; seeing the two dancers side-by-side, performing in-sync as well as performing complementary moves resulted in an entertaining performance.

The group performances provided similar effects. Having such a large group doing the same movements at once helped to amplify their effects.

Another interesting aspect was seeing how the dancers worked to combine slower songs like The Waltz of the Flowers with the more vivacious fast-paced movements of hip-hop.

The cast pulled it off seamlessly, timing kicks, jumps and even flips to match perfectly with the tempo of the instruments.

It’s definitely a challenge!” Fleckenstine said. “But a fun one. Every dancer on the stage is a true artist, and they love experimenting with their art. Bringing it into new realms, exploring. It makes us flow in different ways!”

The show managed to combine love, humor, excitement and, most of all, amazing dance moves. With finals season coming up, The Hip Hop Nutcracker offered a brief respite into a magical world that combined great music and even greater dance moves. 

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
Hip Hop Nutcracker dazzles with new twist on old classic