This story corrects the day of the performances of “Hip Hop Nutcracker.”
It was June of 1980 when Kurtis Blow released “The Breaks,” the first rap song to be certified gold and one of the first hits of a genre that had originated only a few years earlier. Now, as hip hop celebrates its 50th anniversary, Blow is coming to Detroit for two performances this Saturday in the touring production of “Hip Hop Nutcracker” at the Fisher Theatre.
The production – which originated in 2013 – re-interprets the classic Christmas ballet, which is now set in modern times and performed through hip hop dance. The show largely keeps the classic Tchaikovsky score, though adds elements of hip hop music, including an on-stage DJ and electric violinist.
Blow said he’s always been an avid supporter of the fusion of rap and hip hop with other genres of music.
“When I heard Tchaikovsky’s classical music mixed with a DJ who is playing funky, funky hip hop beats under this classical music, I said, ‘Oh my God, there it is, this is such an ingenious idea,’” he said.
The show follows the traditional story of a young girl, Maria-Clara, and her dream adventure with the Nutcracker Prince as they battle a gang of mice and visit the Land of Sweets. The story, however, is now set in modern-day New York City on New Year’s Eve, instead of the traditional setting of Christmas Eve in 19th-century Germany.
“For people who really know ‘The Nutcracker,’ you’re going to see all the things that you’re familiar with,” said Jennifer Weber, the production’s creator, director and choreographer. “You’re going to see Drosselmeyer bring the toys that come to life, you’re going to see a big battle of mice and soldiers, you’re going to see dancing snowflakes, and of course, the love story between Maria-Clara and the Nutcracker.”
Blow is the show’s emcee, opening the production with an intro of what the audience is about to see, before performing a medley of old-school hip-hop songs, including music from the Sugarhill Gang, Cypress Hill, Naughty by Nature and others, in addition to his own work. He also closes the show, performing “The Breaks” as the cast breaks into solo performances.
“Everyone is having fun on stage and the audience as well,” he said. “They’re throwing hands in the air, standing up, making a whole of noise and having fun… At the end, we leave them with this spirit of the magical joy of the holiday season, they feel good inside.”
The show features a range of traditional hip hop dance styles, including breakdancing, popping and locking.
“It’s just amazing to think about hip hop as this American-born culture that has absolutely taken over the world,” Weber said. “I think our show really celebrates the roots of hip hop culture by bringing a lot of the old-school dance styles to this stage.”
Weber said the show is great for both hip hop-lovers and ballet-lovers and suitable for all ages.
“This is a show that just brings so many people together,” she said. “It’s so joyous, there’s something kind of magical about seeing these two worlds together… and seeing them find this common ground.”