Just got a note with the press release below. Take a look, and let me know if you go!
“The Hip Hop Nutcracker” Poised To Become Holiday Classic
Show Kicks Off 12-City Tour with “King of Rap” Kurtis Blow in NYC
October 28, 2015 (New York, NY) — On “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” returns to the United Palace (4140 Broadway at 175th Street, NY, NY) to kick off a 12-city tour, including Miami, Atlanta, St. Paul, Charleston, Charlotte, and Moscow, Russia.
The show features the music from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, 11 dancers, DJ Boo, an electric violinist, and digital scenery that complements the adapted storyline, which locates the action to New Year’s Eve in a contemporary WashingtonHeights community in New York City. The adaptation is respectful of the traditional narrative with references to beloved touchstones like the Mouse King and growing tree.
The production inserts the vocabulary of hip hop movement to what has traditionally been a classical ballet, broadening the audience for the art form. The variety of styles represented (breaking, popping, locking, etc.) serve as a history lesson of hip hop dance.
“What better way to bring people together during the holidays than to combine different popular art forms to reach as wide an audience as possible, then dip this classic story in a contemporary setting that celebrates community,” said Mike Fitelson, executive director of the United Palace of Cultural Arts who adapted the story and is supplying the imagery for the scenery. “This production is the perfect symbol of how we are combining old and new to reinvent the United Palace. It has become a new holiday tradition here.”
To highlight the union of past and present the special guest for the show is the “King of Rap” Kurtis Blow who charted the first rap gold record with “The Breaks” in 1980. (His other hits include “Basketball,” “Christmas Rappin’,” and “If I Ruled the World.”)
“I’m always excited about any undertaking that expands the culture of hip hop,” said Blow. “I feel blessed after 45 years to still be able to contribute.”
“We were faithful to the music and let it drive the storytelling,” said director/choreographer Jennifer Weber of Decadeancetheatre. “The juxtaposition of the hip hop dance and classical music allows you to see the beauty of both in fresh ways, finding new rhythms in the music to accentuate. Since Tchaikovsky's score doesn't have a predictable beat, there is always a sense of surprise in the movement.”
Last year “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” was an experiment - how would audiences respond to hip hop dance being performed to Tchaikovsky's famous score? But after 5,000 audience members attended two shows at the United Palace in WashingtonHeights and two sold out shows at New Jersey Performing Arts Center it was clear that the metropolitan area had another hit holiday show on its hands.
Time Out New York called it “a classic rebooted.” CBS News said it “turns Tchaikovsky on his head in the coolest possible way.” And Elle magazine summed it up as “A truly one-of-a-kind experience, filled with high-powered choreography and a very modern storyline.”
The matinee show is a benefit for youth arts programs at the United Palace of Cultural Arts (UPCA), the nonprofit that co-created the show with Decadancetheatre Company last year.
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center is producing the 2015-2016 show. The United Palace of Cultural Arts is the original producing theatre.
Where: United Palace, 4140 Broadway at 175th Street, New York, NY
Friday, November 20, 8:00pm, with special guest Kurtis Blow, the “King of Rap.”
, matinee performance at
(Doors open 90 minutes before each show.)
History of “The Hip Hop Nutcracker”
The origin of the project is almost as charmed as the narrative it tells. In early 2013, Mike Fitelson, UPCA’s executive director who is also a longtime Washington Heights-based writer and photographer, hoped to bring a traditional Nutcracker production uptown. In July, after those plans fell through, he met choreographer Jennifer Weber, who had blended classical music and hip hop dance in several noteworthy previous productions.
On her first visit to the United Palace she fell in love with the breathtaking 1930’s architecture. About 25 minutes after meeting, while touring the theatre’s grand foyer, Fitelson and Weber decided to create a new version of the holiday classic. After test-driving several scenes during a 20-minute workshop at the Palace in December 2013 they began assembling the pieces for a full production.
History of the United Palace and UPCA
The United Palace originally opened in 1930 as the Loew’s 175th Street Theater, presenting vaudeville and “talking pictures.” With its spectacular Thomas Lamb design, described by some as “Cambodian neo-Classical,” it
was the last of the five Wonder Theatres to be built in the metropolitan area. When it opened, its advertising slogan was “Loew’s Brings Times-Square Entertainment Nearer Your Home.” Eighty-five years later residents of Washington Heights and Inwood still yearn to attend cultural experiences without having to go downtown.
In 1969, when many of the city’s grand movie theatres had been demolished or turned into
multiplexes, the Palace was purchased and preserved by “prosperity preacher” Frederick J.
Eikerenkoetter II, better known as Reverend Ike. The church has maintained a presence here
ever since, never missing a service. It is thanks to the Eikerenkoetter family and the
congregation that the building has been maintained all these years while the other four metro-area Wonder Theatres fell into disrepair at one time or another.
In addition to housing UPCA and the legacy of Rev. Ike’s church, the United Palace House of Inspiration, the building also contains the United Palace Theatre, which books events such as top rock and Latin acts and commercial, television, and movie shoots. In recent years, Bob Dylan, Adele, Neil Young, The Allman Brothers, John Legend, and other countless pop and Latino acts have played at the Palace. It has also been featured in episodes of “Law & Order,” “The Blacklist,” “Smash,” and several music videos.
UPCA was incorporated in 2012 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts and cultural center. Its mission is to harness the spirit of the majestic United Palace to inspire, transform, and unite our Northern Manhattan community and beyond by hosting community art programs, providing space for local artists, and offering world-class events. UPCA is one of the few arts and cultural centers north of 125th Street, providing vital creative experiences for a community lacking arts resources. Xavier Eikerenkoetter, President of UPCA, noted, “Our role in creating the Hip Hop Nutcracker reflects UPCA’s mission to transform lives through the arts in Washington Heights - which has so few spaces able to accommodate events of this nature.”