IMPRESSIONS: Chris March’s Butt-Cracker Suite! A Trailer Park Ballet
Performers: Chris March with Sara Brophy, Michael Dauer, Joshua Dean, Vassiliki Ellwood, Ashley Munzek, Andrea Palesh, Kristen Schoen-Rene and Dana Winkle.
Choreography: Benjamin Franklin
Scenery: Andrea Purcigliotti
Lighting: JenniB/ Shadylady
Sound: Masako Kataoka
Presented by: HERE
December 19th, 2012
January 13, 2012
A Very Campy Christmas
Theodora Boguszewski for The Dance Enthusiast
Especially for folks with a background in dance, The Nutcracker summons a wide variety of reactions, from cynical eye rolls to crippling nostalgia. We all know the timeless Christmas ballet’s storyline like the back of our palms. We can hum the music in our sleep.And, there are thousands of Nutcrackers out there. The latest addition is none other than Butt-Cracker Suite! A Trailer Park Ballet, a ballet that immortalizes goofy Christmas sweaters and plastic Virgin Marys for no other reason than to make us laugh.
Conceived and directed by Chris March, who Reality TV viewers may remember as the rabble rouser on Season Four of Project Runway, Butt-Cracker Suite!... tells the story of Clara (portrayed by a tutu- clad March) a heroine who desperately wants a pair of ballet shoes for Christmas.
Chris March - Clara, Michael Dauer- Photo Ryan Field
The traditional story of the Nutcracker is nodded at towards the beginning of the show, but never realized. What we see instead is a series of fantastical vignettes - the daydreams of poor dejected Clara- each one sillier and more outlandish than the last. The whirl of colorful and cheesy icons makes this ballet feel like an acid trip in redneck country. The standard coffee, chocolate, tea, marzipan and candy cane dances are replaced by tributes to Spam, Old Milwaukee, lawn flamingos, Miracle Whip, bowling and Jose Cuervo (because c’mon, who doesn’t love tequila shots on Christmas Eve?)
The traditional Spanish dance, is re-crafted to reference Pee-Wee Herman’s Tequila Dance. Michael Dauer pursues his female partner around the stage while clutching a bottle of Cuervo. This number is over the top and impressively danced.
Beer Cans [ left to right] Sarah Brophy, Andrea Palesh, Vassiliki Ellwood, Dana Winkle, Ashley Munzek, Kristen Schoen-Rene ;Photo Ryan Field
Another clever scene is what would appear to be the “Waltz of the Lawn Flamingos,” set to the tune of the traditional Marzipan dance. Performers emerge clothed in all black with glow-in-the-dark lawn flamingos taped to their backs so it appears that the stage is overtaken by a flock of eerie dinosaur-like birds.
Then, there is a tap dance about bowling performed by the six member female corps de ballet. The ladies, in bowling outfits, cradle their bowling pins and playfully slap them like naughty children. This baby reference is later echoed in a "Nativity Pas de Deux" , which ends with plastic baby Jesus getting hurled across the stage into the Florida outback. (Ok, clearly not an event for your hardline Christian friends.)
Flamingo's -[left to right] Dana Winkle, Michael Dauer, Joshua Dean, Sarah Brophy; Photo Ryan Field
Joshua Dean practically steals the show as Clara's redneck father, who later turns into the Miracle Whip Fairy, March’s equivalent of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The best of Butt-Cracker Suite!… is by far visual, particularly the costumes. This makes sense, considering March’s background as a costume designer. The show is a bit disjointed in terms of content, but the spectacle itself is interesting enough to keep us entertained. The slapstick humor is chuckle-worthy, but not laugh-out-loud funny. March could have taken it much further.
Bowling Pins: [ left to right] Chris March - Clara, Andrea Palesh, Vassiliki Ellwood, Kristen Schoen-Rene Ryan Field
In the tradition of the Rockettes at Radio City, many of the vignettes are performed by a chorus of long limbed ballerinas - beautiful technicians who ooze with campy personality as they smile and wink at the audience. While these large numbers are initially fun, many of them start to feel the same after a while, and perhaps could have been edited.
Having performed many a Nutcracker in my day, it feels delightfully sacrilegious for impeccable ballet technique and Tchaikovsky’s timeless music to be paired with ketchup, mustard and mayo costumes. Perhaps this is March’s biggest joke - the fact that these dancers are actually really really good.
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