Santa meets the Heat Miser

Flair Dance Company presents Cracked Nuts

3 minute read
A group of performers, seemingly all adults, dressed in unique takes on festive Christmas costumes—elves, Santa, etc.
Members of the Flair Dance Company are ready for this weekend's show. (Photo by Alexa Santa.)

Most versions of The Nutcracker add humor to a scene or two, but it gets the spotlight in Flair Dance Company’s Cracked Nuts. On stage December 21-23, 2023, owner and creative director Christina Dunnington describes Cracked Nuts as “a fun holiday performance” rather than a classic Nutcracker or a traditional dance show. It adds actors and dialogue to the dancers, along with an updated story. Clara is older in this version, and her wild dreams after a holiday party incorporate characters and elements from assorted seasonal favorites.

Fun steps in a different direction

For instance, a trip to the North Pole finds Santa hanging out with the Heat Miser. These two are at a salsa lounge because Cracked Nuts combines various types of dance. There is “every style you would want to see in a holiday show,” Dunnington said, from the salsa number to reindeer doing modern dance. Fittingly, Flair offers a range of dance classes at its studio on Haddon Avenue in Collingswood, New Jersey. Dunnington’s specialty is ballet, which she teaches along with other styles, including contemporary and jazz. Other instructors teach hip-hop, salsa, and tap. The studio opened in September, but Dunnington has been involved in the area’s dance scene for a long time.

“I grew up a dancer; I danced my entire life,” she said. After undergoing back surgery at 15, Dunnington heard that she would never dance again. She proved this wrong, though. As Dunnington put it, “I could not live without dance.” She trained in classical ballet, studied dance and business at Towson University, and graduated “ready to hit the dance world.” Dunnington praised Philadelphia’s arts scene. “My goal when I graduated was to dance in Philly,” she said. But then Covid-19 arrived. “I ended up working for BalletX on their fundraising team and learned a lot,” Dunnington explained. Later, she created the Flair Dance Festival with a friend, and they sold out their first show during the Fringe Festival. “From there, I took control of Flair, and it’s now my full-time work.”

Dunnington mostly works with adults at the studio. The cast for Cracked Nuts reflects this with a lineup of “90% adult dancers,” she said. Young dancers between the ages of 12 to 14 portray elves. Dunnington told me that she never imagined so many adults would want to perform onstage. For her, performing at the Suzanne Roberts Theater constitutes a kind of homecoming. During college, Dunnington danced at the theater while performing in Koresh Dance Company’s Come Together Festival. “I love that theater,” she said. “I love the Philly arts scene. It’s common ground for everyone in the show” since Cracked Nuts’s performers hail from Delaware, northern New Jersey, and northern Pennsylvania. “I feel very supported in Philly,” Dunnington said.

Flair may be relatively new on the area’s dance scene, but Cracked Nuts offers a fresh take on holiday dance with a funny, family-friendly show that incorporates a little adult humor. The show is “just really fun,” Dunnington said, and it will appeal to people who know nothing about dance. “My goal is to make this show a staple in Philly over the next few years.” Cracked Nuts has been in the works since April. When it wraps, Dunnington plans to expand the dance studio and work on the Flair Dance Festival, which will return in June 2024.

What, When, Where

Cracked Nuts. Choreography by Christina Dunnington. Flair Dance Company. $50. December 21-23, 2023, at the Suzanne Roberts Theater, 480 S Broad Street, Philadelphia. (609) 802-9834 or


View Suzanne Roberts Theater's accessibility features and options on their website.

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