As the city continues to welcome back the arts, especially during the holiday season, Philadelphia will be treated to two unique performances of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet, The Nutcracker. One will feature an all-black cast, another an all-female cast.
“Nutcracker Dipped In Chocolate” will tell the tale famous tale of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince but with a cultural twist featuring music from Brazil, Egypt, and the Carnival traditions. The production is made up of black artists and performers, a first in Philadelphia.
Produced by the Chocolate Ballerina Company, a service organization which supports the talents of all ages of color in the Philadelphia area, the cast will also feature the Premier Prima Ballerinas and Conway Academy Ballerinas from Washington D.C.
“We are hoping to create an annual celebration of Black Excellence with our production”, says founder and artistic director Chanel Holland.
“Our cast has shown extraordinary artistic efforts during the rehearsal process, and we can’t wait to share our show with the greater Philadelphia community.”
Chocolate Ballerina Company illustrates the struggles and successes of African American culture through dance. Since the organization’s founding by Holland in 2017, it engages the under-served through dance to inspire and instill a sense of hope, discipline, and confidence by the way of professional development. The company also offers free dance classes, outreach programs, pop-up performances, and more, both virtually, and in-person.
Chocolate Ballerina Company’s core values are to inspire the community through the passion of dance, influence lives to transform and change through performing arts education, and to improve the level of ballet training and performance opportunities in the black community.
“The TAPCRACKER” is an all-woman, all-tap spin on the holiday classic set to the music of both Tchaikovsky and Duke Ellington. Performed by the Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble, this will be their fourth annual performance. “Our dancers are so excited to return to the theater,” says artistic director Kat Echevarria.
Dancer Tamera Dallum agrees. “We hope that people will leave happy and excited after a year of us not being on stage”. Dallum plays the Fairy Tapmother and she is also the assistant rehearsal director. “It is a role that I love and actually originated. It gives me the opportunity to improvise.
This combination of jazz and tap includes a talented group of thirty dancers from the ensemble’s First Company, Apprentice Company, and Youth Ensemble hailing from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
Along with Dallum, the cast also stars Sarah Vogan as the Queen of Versailles, Jessica Dodds as the Tapcracker, Abigail Stinson as the Mouse Queen and Sarah Taylor as Clara.
“Even though Clara is nine and I’m twelve, she is a pretty easy role to play. Kind of bratty like myself”, laughs Taylor who has been performing since the age of two.
The Lady Hoofers TAP Ensemble was founded in 2011 and the non-profit produces original works of choreography while preserving the tradition of improvisation in American rhythm tap, bringing innovative percussive dance to diverse audiences.
As far as being a part of an all-woman cast, everyone involved acknowledges the significance.
“To have an and all-female cast is very important”, adds Taylor. “Everyone is excited”. Dallum reiterates. “It is amazing to feel empowered in such a place that has been so male-dominated”.
The TAPCRACKER will take place December 11-12 at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre with two shows on both dates. For more information, visit ladyhoofers.org.
For The Nutcracker: Dipped In Chocolate will debut at Drexel University’s Mandela Theatre, both performances on Sunday, December 19 are sold out but to learn more about the Chocolate Ballerina Company, visit chocolateballerinacompany.com