For the last seven years, the Keshet Dance Company has gloried in injecting a heavy dose of straight-up rock and roll into Tchaikovsky's classic ballet The Nutcracker. Innovation, of course, comes naturally to this award-winning dance company. Keshet's specialty of placing its own professional repertory dancers and acclaimed guest artists on stage with beginning dancers and dancers with disabilities has gained it well-deserved national renown. No arts organization in Albuquerque can claim to more successfully meld fun with philanthropy, and Nutcracker on the Rocks, in many ways, celebrates this essential spirit better than any other Keshet production.
"The company itself is based on a mentoring philosophy," says Shira Greenberg, Keshet's Artistic Director, "so in a lot of ways, Nutcracker on the Rocks embodies what we're all about."
Greenberg, who initially came up with the idea for the production, says it has evolved gradually over the years, often changing to suit the needs and abilities of each cast. "The first year we did Nutcracker on the Rocks was early on in the life of Keshet," she says. "We wanted a good show to introduce the company to the community. We wanted something familiar but that also contained enough of our own unique flavor as Keshet to set us apart."
Nutcracker on the Rocks certainly succeeds at that. That first year, 13 dancers were involved. This year there will be 65, ranging from tiny six-year-olds to veterans in their 50s, from classically trained pros to newcomers in wheelchairs. In line with Keshet's founding philosophy, anyone can participate.
The show is broken into two 40-minute acts. In addition to bits of Tchaikovsky's famous music, the production also includes numbers by James Brown, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin and a dozen other rock and roll hits. As always, there will be a big, fat, smoking Harley hog on stage. Amidst a flurry of more conventional fare, Nutcracker on the Rocks is a holiday spectacle like no other.
When Greenberg talks about it, you can hear the pride humming in her voice.
"It's been great juggling all these different people," she says. "From the beginning, it could have all ended in disaster, but it didn't because everyone teaches everyone else. That keeps everyone on their toes. This production really shows what we're all about. Even with the cast expanded to this size, it's become a very close-knit group of people."
Sure, you can opt for traditional holiday entertainment, but I know in your black heart of hearts, you'd rather give in to your wild side. So slip into those leather pants, spit some fire and jump around to some squealing electric guitars. Nutcracker on the Rocks will rock your little world.