12/09/16 12:06pm
How do you make the ballet more diverse? Transport the Nutcracker to Brooklyn

Photo by Stephan Moskovic.

About halfway through the Brooklyn Ballet’s new performance of the Nutcracker at the Brooklyn Museum, three dudes walk on stage looking like they got lost on the way to the subway. They’re wearing fashionable clothes and hoodies instead of tutus and tights, and when the traditional music kicks in, they break into dance moves that are more showtime than pointe shoes.

If other Nutcracker performances are all about the prim, polish and traditionalism of a 120-year old ballet, this one is about cracking open that hard nut (see what I did there) and bringing the show to new audiences. Since this is Brooklyn, that means a diverse cast, a mix of dance styles from around the world, light-up outfits built with the help of a local hacker space and transforming the character Drosselmeyer into a master of the pop-and-lock. This is the first time the Brooklyn Ballet has done a full Nutcracker performance, so artistic director Lynn Parkerson was keen to make the show feel at home on Eastern Parkway.

“Why would I do the traditional Nutcracker? New York City Ballet has that locked up,” she told Brokelyn. “If I’m going to do a Nutcracker, it should reflect the place that we are in. … Already there’s these different characters from different countries. Brooklyn is this incredibly diverse borough, so it just lends itself to that.”

The production is tied to the overall recent emphasis on diversity in the performing arts, from Misty Copeland and Hamilton down to public school programs. And yeah, ballet isn’t cheap, but this one is still relatively affordable: New York City Ballet productions can run you hundreds of dollars. This show’s $90 tickets sold out through Sunday night. But Parkerson’s approach to the show, which emphasizes diversity and accessibility to new audiences who don’t frequent Lincoln Center, could be a big move toward keeping ballet relevant for future generations. (more…)