A JAZZY CLASSIC

Yang Wang dances a Chinese folk dance: A Peacock Woman.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Welcoming in the holiday season last week, the Dance The World Nutcracker Festival performed at The Secret Theatre, an intimate (99-seat) performance space off a loading dock on 23rd Street in Long Island City, offered a most unusual spin on the holiday favorite.

It was Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn arrangements of The Nutcracker (The Nutcracker Suite & The Vulga Vouty) that opened both acts, danced by the JP Dance Group company bringing a 1920s-era jazzy interpretation to the classic.

In this imaginative adaptation to the story, Clara is magically transported to the 1922 World’s Fair in Rio De Janiero where she is enthralled by dancers from around the world. Following scenes performed by the JP Dance Group dancers, the Dance the World numbers entertain Clara and the audience.

Julie Petrusak, producer and artistic director, put out a call for local dance companies that reflect New York City’s diverse cultures. She narrowed the 20 respondents to 12 groups or acts.

Dance The World, in fact, had three different programs, with a varied selection embedded in the dance narrative in each program.

FIIYAH Dancehall Theater (Afro-Caribbean, reggae and dancehall) showing off its choreography and freestyle movement, Harika Chatlapalli demonstrating her artistry with Kuchipudi Indian dance, and the colorfully costumed Mexican Xoochipilli Dance Ensemble folk dances were on one program.

Clara and the company in one of the final numbers in the Dance The World Nutcracker Festival by the JP Dance Group.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

The authentic Indian Anjna Dance Company, the Bulgarian Elea Gorana Dance Company, Pei-Rong Wu dancing a traditional Chinese fan dance and Nyla Phoenix’s Middle-Eastern belly dance made up another program.

Danse Expressions Dance Company, mixing modern with traditional Haitian rara, Yang Wang’s traditional Chinese folk peacock dance and the Reaction Dance Company that fuses Bollywood, hip-hop and other dance forms were on the third schedule of dance groups.

The two-year-old JP Dance Group, a contemporary dance company based in Harlem, is dedicated to promoting diversity in dance and aims to make dance accessible to all. It partners with Harlem’s Riverbank State Park’s Young People Performance Series and yearly provides free performances to hundreds of children and seniors.

The inception of this production started with a half-hour piece that was performed at Riverbank. The company itself is multi-ethnic and with growing interest to expand the production, Dance The World evolved.

Queens, the borough known for its ethnic diversity, seemed a perfect fit for this production that highlights through dance many colorful and expressive cultures from around the world.

THe finale scene of “The Nutcracker” with with sugar plum fairies.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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