Friday, December 6, 2013
By Jennifer McKeever
This past Friday at the Steel Stacks in Bethlehem, PA, DANCENOW presented The Big Bang Group with a hilarious spoof on the "Nutcracker Ballet" called Nut/Cracked, choreographed by David Parker. The house was filled with laughter and applause for an evening of impressive dancing and good jokes about the silly nature of a serious ballet.
The Big Bang Group is a rhythm-based, theatrical dance troupe founded in 1995 in New York city by David Parker and Jeffrey Kazin, who continue to direct the company today. This year is the third season for Nut/Cracked; it proved to be a innovative production with a clever twist on the season's most popular ballet the "Nutcracker."
The show included 22 vignettes with variations and different arrangements of the famous Tchaikovsky's score for the "Nutcracker." Some versions were a jazz style, including Duke Ellington while others were the traditional orchestral suites.
Parker, whose face was covered in shaving cream, was accompanied by Kazin and opened the show with aBroadway styled tap dance and song. They sang lyrics by Fred Waring from Russian Trepak that included a line, " Have another vodka, it makes things right."
The company of 13 dancers danced to Sugar Plum, barefooted and costumed for the whole show in black gym pants with stripes down the sides. They picked up gifts of roses, hats, presents, gloves and sunglasses scurrying and weaving throughout the stage as a tribute to the party scene of the traditional "Nutcracker."
Dylan Baker danced to a variation of Sugar Plum in pointe shoes while holding a flashlight. He highlighted his footwork, switching the flashlight to each of his feet as he tapped in his pointe shoes, and even did a bourree across the floor. There is something very amusing about a male dancer in pointe shoes dancing proficiently.
Five students of Muhlenberg College presented a piece called "Shades", and wore them of course. The choreography was drawn from John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever" but didn't stop there. The movement was modern, inventive and original.
"Bubble Wrap" was a highlight of the evening as Sloan firstly danced around and tiptoed over her big piece of bubble wrap. She then jumped onto it making them pop, tapped on it, always in sync with the music and finished by stomping and falling on it to make sure not one bubble wasn't popped. The funny part was when dancer Nic Petry came to the stage with a very small piece of bubble wrap and sort of competed with Sloan and her bigger piece. At the end they wrapped the bubble wrap around themselves like scarves all to the music of "Waltz of Flowers" by Glenn Miller.
Parker and Kazin danced "Spirits" a capella with choral theme from the snowflakes chorus. A wine glass in hand, Parker swirled his finger around the rim to make a tone and kept sipping to make it right. The two fought over the glass and partnered each other just missing the wine glass, when suddenly Kazin, resembling a dog, licked the wine from the glass. An amusing touch at the end of the piece Parker twirled his finger around his mouthlike the glass in the beginning and he began to singthe theme and drank his wine off the stage.
In the "Nutcracker", the tree growing is always a big deal, but in Nut/Cracked the tree was about a foot high as Daniel O'Neill started on his side and slowly elevated the tree with his hands. Finally it lit up as he reached for the ceiling in an attempt to make it look large and heroic.
Another very amusing section was the company's version of the snow scene to the "Waltz of the Snowflakes." They moved like ice skaters and then began to slip and fall as the snow covered the stage. The dancers performed complicated ballet variations, including fouetee turns, clean footwork, and partnering, with a bit of disco movement.
The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts dancers blasted the stage with variations of the Hustle from the disco days. Moving in perfect unison they put on a show stopping number. In the middle, Parker suddenly appeared in pointe shoes and did an elegant bouree amongst the dancers from one side to the other as a final touch.
The "Chinese" variation performed by Parker made the house laugh frombeginning to end as he simply did a bouree in place on pointe shoes and ate a single noodle form a Chinese take out box finishing it just as the music ends.
The company performed the "Waltz of the Flowers" with smooth balletic choreography but with a bit of the Charleston dance interspersed. The dancers all had their own flowers and sneezed to make for a very funny twist on the variation.
The "Grand Pas de Deux" was a daring attempt to make fun of the seriousness of the "Nutcracker" version. Partnering all the while, one dancer would put his thumb out and another would place his mouth on it, over and over. Crawling on the floor and doing a bouree undulating with thumbs up, "Thumbs" proved to be a cutting edge bit of choreography that took some guts.
Nut/Cracked is a holiday show not to be missed next year because it makes you full of cheer, good laughs with sensational and dramatic dancing worth seeing for a different Christmas treat.