Holidays in JP: ‘Urban Nutcracker’ brings diversity to holiday

(Photo Courtesy Petr Metlicka) The “Urban Nutcracker” in 2010.

Living in the city usually means experiencing diversity, and with Anthony Williams’ “Urban Nutcracker,” you can bring that to your holiday celebrations.

The “Urban Nutcracker” is Williams’ take on the 19th century classical ballet. It has a vast array of dance, ranging from classical ballet to hip-hop to urban tap to traditional Chinese.

“We have something for everyone,” said Williams, who grew up in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain and now runs the Tony Williams Dance Center on Amory Street.

Williams used the analogy of a Russian matryoshka doll to describe the show, which runs from Dec. 8 to 23 at the John Hancock Hall in the Back Bay.  As with a matryoshka doll, which has smaller versions within itself, the show has a nestled diversity, from the cast to the music to the audience to the dance pieces, said Williams.

“It’s the only show of its kind,” he said.

Williams said the show is a full-scale production that competes with the big-time producers in the Boston.

Not only does his ballet show have diversity, so to does Williams’ life. He is the son of an interracial marriage. His father, an African-American from the South, met his mother in Italy during World War II. Williams was born in Naples and eventually moved into the Bromley-Heath housing development in 1954.

Williams said he was a lost 13-year-old kid who was in a youth street gang, getting into trouble and fights. He began taking the trolley from Centre Street downtown to the Boston Young Men’s Christian Union, similar to a YMCA, where he lifted weights and did gymnastics.

Many Russians there did ballet to improve their gymnastics and Williams followed suit. Williams said he was surrounded by mentors who talked to him about staying out of trouble and working hard. He said some of his friends where he grew up weren’t as fortunate as they continued to get in trouble.

Williams joined the Boston Ballet School and eventually the Boston Ballet Company. He would go on to dance professionally for 25 years. Williams founded BalletRox, a nonprofit ballet organization also headquartered on Amory Street, in 1996. And in 2001, he started his own ballet studio in Jamaica Plain.

Williams had tap dance and hip-hop teachers at his new studio, which brought in many men of color. Williams wanted to showcase that because it is unusual in dance, so he decided to have a show. Williams didn’t want to do the traditional “Nutcracker” because there were so many performances of it around the Boston area. That is when the “Urban Nutcracker” was born.

BalletRox has produced the show in years past, but Williams decided to have his own school produce it this year so he could take full control and preserve it for future generations. He noted that is a very expensive production and he wanted to make the show more of a business where it succeeded or failed based on the product.

“It’s more of a practical decision,” he said.

For more information about Williams’ studio, visit For information about the “Urban Nutcracker,” visit

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