Nut/Cracked by David Parker & The Bang Group | Sarah Carlson (Dec. 2014)

Nut/Cracked by David Parker & The Bang Group
Thursday, December 11, 2014
DanceNow @ SteelStacks

By Sarah Carlson

David Parker distinguished himself in the 1990s as a witty gender-bending choreographer with a penchant for point shoes. For this NYC based artist, it was not enough to simply go “en pointe” and emulate the grace and beauty of the ballerina such as troupes like Les Ballets Trocadero. No, Parker forged new territory and took his explorations to a quirky, rhythmic, contorted realm all his own. This approach along with a healthy sense of humor is what grounds Nut/Cracked, Parker’s irreverent ode to The Nutcracker that enjoyed its 4th annual presentation in the Lehigh Valley on Thursday night.

Now in his 50s, Parker’s middle-aged body is not quite the lean, lithe instrument it once was, but it can still MOVE! Parker starts the show with a hearty song & tap number. With his red Santa hat, shaving cream beard and healthy gut, he bellows a festive tune like an after hours Santa after one too many spirits. He starts a simple foot rhythm that gets increasingly more complicated. A younger buck comes onstage to join, but eventually slips off as he is clearly out danced by Parker’s tap prowess. Impressive!

Dressed in decidedly casual sweat pants and t-shirts, the rest of the cast takes the stage in an unfolding series of physical hijinks. Exaggerated gestures seem somewhat “put-on”, much like the character miming in traditional ballet. The ensuing sections feature several whimsical takes on the Sugar Plum melody including a bubble wrap stamp and sultry “sugar” plum with red feather fan and curvy hips.

As the show progresses, Parker keeps upping the ante with his inventive play on the familiar Tchaikovsky score. The growing tree scene of the original production is countered with a hilarious tree-as-phallus moment that rises gloriously into the “climax” of the score. The fast and furious pace of the Russian Dance was matched with an effervescent mix of disco and street moves by a chorus of students from the Lehigh Valley Charter School for the Performing Arts. What fun!

Nut/Cracked somehow manages to be an homage to classical tradition as well as an absurdly clever reimagining of it. In an age when every convention is being questioned, Nut/Cracked provides a welcome opportunity to laugh and marvel at our cultural trajectory.  Parker’s choreography reinterprets The Nutcracker with uproariously funny irreverence while matching beat for beat, the musical genius of the score. If DanceNow at Steelstacks can manage to snag Parker & The Bang Group back to the Lehigh Valley year in and year out, this is a new tradition worth forging.