Unique local dance classic features JP children

Li Li

Courtesy Photo Jamaica Plain residents Becky Paul, 12, and Adam Wintzer, 8, are members of the cast of “Urban Nutcracker” this year.

“Urban Nutcracker” is fast becoming an inner-city Boston holiday classic. Now in its ninth year, the production continues to feature changes and additions to the choreography and a wide range of talents. This year, “Urban Nutcracker” has more than 80 Boston area children in its multicultural and diverse cast, 17 of whom are from Jamaica Plain. The production will run from Dec. 4 to Dec. 20 at John Hancock Hall in Boston.

Becky Paul, 12, of JP, a student at the Curley School, is a veteran dancer in “Urban Nutcracker.” This is her fifth year in the show and her second as Clarice, one of the production’s main characters.

“Dancing the role of Clarice was harder the first time because I didn’t know the choreography, so this year is easier,” said Becky. “I was inspired by the original ‘Nutcracker’ when I was 6, and then I was able to audition for the ‘Urban Nutcracker’ when I was 7,” she said.

Adam Wintzer, 8, also of Jamaica Plain, who attends The Learning Project Elementary School, said he is excited to perform in his first “Urban Nutcracker.” Adam, who takes ballet and hip hop classes said, “Practice is fun, and I even bust moves at home. I saw a friend dance, and that made me want to try dancing too.”

Tony Williams, founder and artistic director of BalletRox, together with scenarist David Rottenberg, created “Urban Nutcracker” in 2000 to reflect the talents of the children who had been dancing with BalletRox. Williams said he wanted to showcase and bring together a variety of dance styles that went beyond the traditional ballet interpretation of E.T.A. Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker” and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s score.

Encompassing swing, tap, hip hop, step dance, Irish step dance and doo-wop, as well as Duke Ellington’s jazz version of the “Nutcracker Suite,” “Urban Nutcracker” allows dancers of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and talents to shine. Having grown up in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury and becoming the first African-American dancer with the Boston Ballet, Williams demonstrates to Boston’s children that no matter who they are, how they look, or what their background, they can, through hard work and dedication, someday see in themselves—as Williams has seen in himself—a professional dancer, entrepreneur, teacher, civic leader and role model.

Additional dancers from Jamaica Plain include Alexandra Marino, Peninah Markus-Hodin, Milla Metlika, Annalise Van Evan, Gracie Riordan, Helen Claire Skerrett, Mikaila Wright, Nora Cameron, Aurelia Jenkins-Portal, Lily Caffrey-Levine, Kayla Getter, Alexa Wang, Anika Hartje, Angelica Breece Sullivan and Peregrine Lane-Thurlow.

The same day the show opens, Dec. 4, the documentary “‘Urban Nutcracker’: Anatomy of a Ballet,” will premiere in Boston on PBS channel 44 at 6 p.m. The documentary was written and directed by Turkish-American TV producer Gonca Sonmez-Poole, founder of the nonprofit Mediation Way, Inc. of Acton, and former producer for WCVB-TV’s nationally renowned show “Chronicle.”

“Urban Nutcracker” runs Dec. 4 through Dec. 20 at the John Hancock Hall at Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley St. in Boston.
Tickets are $20-$55. They are available at: www.ticketfusion.com or toll free at 877-548-3237 or Back Bay Events Center Box Office at 180 Berkeley St. beginning Nov. 21.

For additional information about “Urban Nutcracker,” see www.urbannutcracker.org or call 524-3066.

The writer is a public relations consultant for BalletRox/Urban Nutcracker.

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