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In March 2020, Chocolate Ballerina Company was preparing for their world premiere of Romeo and Juliet. Then Covid-19 hit and the theaters went dark. But now, the theater lights are bright again and the company returns December 19 with their own take on the beloved Christmas classic, The Nutcracker: Dipped in Chocolate. The company combines classical ballet technique with a wide variety of dance styles, so I asked founder and artistic director Chanel Holland what audiences can expect.
The land of sweets
Act 1 will bring the traditional story. Holland said, “we do have a lot of youth dancers. They’ll be like party girls, but our main company will be doing the champagne toast, they’ll be doing the decoration of the tree, they’ll be doing all of that on pointe.” For Act 2, Holland decided “to dip it a little in chocolate.” When Clara visits the land of sweets, audiences can expect dances based more on the cultures of the African diaspora. Holland, a Temple University graduate, studied African dance, including Umfundalai, a contemporary West African technique, with Kariamu Welsh Asante, and she said that the Egyptian dance will reflect the actual lines and shapes of that style as well.
Holland’s Nutcracker retains the dance of the candy canes, but she’s stepped it up: “We are bringing the acrobatics, the contortions, the gymnastics, they are going to be doing all different tricks, backbend walkovers with the hula hoops in it.”
Holland relies on the company’s 15 dancers for her Nutcracker and also draws on the company’s professional training program and local university programs. She called on longstanding partnerships with dance organizations in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Conway Academy dancers made the two-hour trip every week for rehearsals.
This year, the performance has an all African American cast but Holland said that moving forward, “We want it to be open to all ethnicities, to all textures of chocolate—dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate—we have so many textures that we can bring together and have in common.”
The Nutcracker: Dipped in Chocolate appears at the Mandell Theater on the Drexel University campus for one evening show and one ticketed rehearsal performance. Tickets sold out quickly, but Holland hopes to add more performances next year and make it an annual event.
What, When, Where
The Nutcracker: Dipped in Chocolate. Chocolate Ballerina Company, presented by Mandell Theatre, 3220 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. $40. December 19, 2021. chocolateballerinacompany.com.
At this time, Drexel is requiring all people to be masked indoors. This applies to audience members as well as performers. Drexel has a policy currently in place which requires all visitors to campus to apply online for a visitor pass every time they come to campus. Please proceed to complete an online visitor's pass no more than 24 hours prior to your arrival to the theater. Drexel University is requiring that all attendees receive vaccinated or negative Covid-19 status to attend the performance. You will need to select "yes" under “are you vaccinated?” to receive a green check in order to receive a visitor's pass. Proof of vaccination is NOT required. You will only need to present your ticket code and your green check when entering the theater.
The theater is ADA compliant and offers listening enhancement devices.
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