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Culture Shock’s Hip Hop Nutcracker Opens At Spreckels Theatre

Culture Shock dancers (L-R) Eddie Madueno, Anthony Rodriguez, and Jonathan Si...

Photo by Angela Carone

Above: Culture Shock dancers (L-R) Eddie Madueno, Anthony Rodriguez, and Jonathan Sison rehearse the Arabian vignette from Hip Hop Nutcracker. It's set to Madonna's "Vogue."

This is not your grandmother’s "Nutcracker."

For the second year, Culture Shock, a local contemporary and hip hop dance company, will stage a modern, street-style version of the classic holiday ballet.

"We’re keeping some of the old fashioned themes, but really updating it," said Angie Bunch, Culture Shock founder and chief artistic director.

Angie Bunch is the founder and chief artistic director at Culture Shock.

The update is a transformed dance of mostly street and hip-hop choreography, including breakdancing and character adaptations. For example, Drosselmeyer wears a purple suit, a la Prince.

Photo by Angela Carone

Some of the younger Culture Shock dancers rehearse for this weekend's performance of Hip Hop Nutcracker.

Audiences will recognize the basic story and characters, and hear the original score.

"Sometimes it’s just Tchaikovsky’s score and then it shifts to contemporary music," Bunch said. "Mostly it’s a fusion of both. People were very receptive to the contemporary music last year, so there’s more of that. They were kind of waiting for the fusion."

Bunch dreamed of doing a hip hop version of "The Nutcracker" since she founded Culture Shock in the early 1990s.

"It took me 20 years to realize this production because I was scared to death," Bunch said. "It’s just a huge undertaking."

There are 131 dancers in the show, all of whom auditioned. The youngest dancer is five and the oldest 50.

Bunch consulted with Javier Velasco, co-director of the San Diego Ballet as she prepped the show. "He helped me understand the underlying intention for a lot of the scene development," said Bunch.

For example, a second act scene set at court involving Arabian characters is historically a woman's dance. “I’m going to eliminate the girls, no offense, and let the guys be the feature,” said Bunch. "I'm testing the audience. They’re almost androgynous, and very sensual."

Last year, she did not stage the entire "Nutcracker."

“I didn’t really know what I was doing," Bunch said. "I just kind of threw stuff up there. We had a really solid Act I."

This year, it's the entire dance, including every vignette.

"We're doing the Spanish, Chinese, Russian. We're doing them all," Bunch said. "It's going to be beautiful."

Performances of "A Culture Shock Nutcracker: A Holiday Hip-Hop Dance Theatrical" will take place Jan. 3-4 at the Spreckels Theatre in downtown San Diego.

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