DALA puts a twist on a classic

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By Special to the Monitor

New production features modern twist on a classic Dance Arts Los Alamos kicked off the holiday season with three performances of the “Nutcracker,” — but why stop there?  On Wednesday, DALA will again take to the stage at Duane Smith Auditorium in their production of “Nuts, Crackers and Sweets,” a funky version of the “Nutcracker” for all ages.
Not just for balletomanes, “Nuts, Crackers and Sweets” showcases dancers and genres that are not typically present in the “Nutcracker.” DALA students from age three to adult will perform to music by Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, traditional holiday music and even hip hop, to bring the production to life.  
Faculty member Manny Romero has contributed a hip hop battle scene, and modern instructor Erica Gionfriddo choreographed the snow scene and “Arabian Coffee.” New faculty member Shannon Elliott teaches ballet, tap, jazz and advanced contemporary ballet.  Elliott has choreographed the “Drosselmeyer’s Den” piece for the show.
“When choreographing my contemporary ballet piece called ‘Drosselmeyer’s Den,’ I used Duke Ellington’s interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy” in his work entitled, ‘Sugar Rum Cherry,’ as my primary inspiration,” Elliott said.
“For the piece, I selected a version of ‘Sugar Rum Cherry’ performed by the Derrick Stout Quartet because of its upbeat quality and sharp sound. The music made me think of a nightclub atmosphere and brought to mind the work of choreographer Bob Fosse, specifically his choreography in the musicals, ‘The Pajama Game’ and ‘Sweet Charity.’ I thought it would be fun to educate the dancers about Bob Fosse and to play with some choreography inspired by Fosse’s unique movement style.”
She said the concept for “Drosselmeyer’s Den” is that the traditional characters from the Nutcracker meet up “after hours” at a dark, underground establishment that is run by the Rat Queen and her Beatnik mice servants.
DALA presents this unique production and introduces new dance genres to Los Alamos’ holiday entertainment. According to Elliott, “many of DALA’s dancers study more than one form of dance, which only enhances their understanding of their bodies, of other musical genres and of different ways to express themselves.”
She said for dance students who are more serious about a future in performance, the more dance styles they study (plus singing and acting) the more prepared they will be. “Versatility is the name of the game.”
 The “Nuts, Crackers and Sweets” performance will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Duane Smith Auditorium. Tickets are $5 at the door.  For more information, visit www.danceartslosalamos.org or call 672-9462.