‘Brown Sugar Nutcracker’ blends global traditions with the classical ballet

· Dec. 15, 2023, 4:00 am
Debuting in 2023, "The Brown Sugar Nutcracker" is a reimagining of the classic ballet by infusing modern, global elements.Debuting in 2023, "The Brown Sugar Nutcracker" is a reimagining of the classic ballet by infusing modern, global elements.Courtesy of Georgia Michelle
Debuting in 2023, "The Brown Sugar Nutcracker" is a reimagining of the classic ballet by infusing modern, global elements.

The Nutcracker has become a special part of the holidays for many families, but even so, many find elements of the ballet exclusionary and racially insensitive, from the wealthy family’s party that opens the tale to the ‘Tea-Chinese’ and ‘CoffeeArabian’ divertissements in the second act. 

In recent years, many companies have made adjustments to address the concerns. But in her new production, choreographer and director Georgia Schmid takes that approach a bit further, expanding the classical ballet to showcase the beauty of other cultural traditions through a variety of dance genres and musical styles.

Schmid noted that the setting for the “Brown Sugar Nutcracker” is also different, “because it's my story. It's about a single mom with her child and how she has her Christmas party made of all of her friends from around the globe.”

Schmid drew inspiration from famed L.A.-based choreographer Debbie Allen's production, “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,” to create her own version of the classic tale. She also tapped into her own experiences as a young dancer.

“I grew up dancing as a ballerina. I am a woman of color, and I was always cast in roles based on the color of my skin,” Schmid said. “I've always kind of wanted to create something that broke down those racial barriers.”

Courtesy of Georgia Michelle
Debuting in 2023, "The Brown Sugar Nutcracker" is a reimagining of the classic ballet by infusing modern, global elements.

Ballet was Schmid’s first love in dance, and with “Brown Sugar Nutcracker,” her goal was to keep it the focus while still adding new cultural elements. 

“I wanted the Arabian or coffee scene to actually have some belly dance in it,” said Schmid. “So I've got a folkloric Egyptian piece for that number.”

“Brown Sugar Nutcracker” runs Friday and Saturday at the Junkyard Social Club in Boulder and Sunday at the Dairy Center for the Arts.

The show has been helped along by the support of other arts organizations and leaders in Boulder.

Mark Ragan and Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (BETC) donated the space for the Sunday performance at the Dairy, and sponsored some of the personnel costs for the performance. And while The Catamounts theater company is not directly involved, its artistic director, Amande Berg Wilson is associate producing as a freelancer.

Schmid hopes the production will entertain and inspire young dancers to follow their passions and ignore people who tell them they can't. 

“Sometimes you just have to be the creator of your own dreams and don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't do something.” Schmid said. 

The Dairy Arts Center and the Boulder Ensemble Theater are both financial supporters of CPR News. Financial supporters have no editorial influence.

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