My Review of the Urban Nutcracker 

Disclosure: I received two complimentary tickets to attend the Urban Nutcracker, but all opinions included herein are mine.  

This weekend, my nine-year-old son and I attended the Opening Night of the Urban Nutcracker, a Boston holiday tradition now in its sixteenth year. I had always wanted to attend the Urban Nutcracker, so I was thrilled with the show reached out to invite us.

Urban Nutcracker

Photo credit: Emilia Cannella

Created by Tony Williams, the first African-American principal dancer of the Boston Ballet and the founder of the Tony Williams Dancer Center, the Urban Nutcracker is a celebration of dance. Tap, jazz, and hip hop join together with ballet to interpret the Nutcracker tale. But this Nutcracker isn’t one you have seen before. This Nutcracker is modern, Boston-focused show, with a doo wop group, swing dancers, flamenco dancers, and routines with hula hoops and jump ropes. There’s also music by Duke Ellington, in addition to P.I. Tchaikovsky, plus breakdancing and an ode to the Boston Public Garden.

The Urban Nutcracker has something for everyone (including Fenway Park for New England sports lovers), which is what makes the two-hour show such fun. The mix of music and types of dance knit together an accessible, joyful performance. Joyful really is the word to describe the show; there was an energy that emanated from the cast that cheered the audience and reminded me how important it is for us to find space in our lives for creativity.

My son and I each appreciated different elements of the show; for him, it was the big numbers that filled the stage with members of the dance company, while I was drawn to the tap numbers—the more high-energy, the better.

The show’s tagline is “celebrating diversity through dance,” and this was especially true in the cast. The dancers ranged in the age from the very young to the grey-haired. They had curves and tattoos, they were school children and parents, and some were on stage for the first time, while others had danced with the Urban Nutcracker since its first performance.  They represented the diversity of our country, reflecting how, more than ever, we need to be reminded that there is so much that unites us.

Tony Williams is a proponent of the connection that people have with one another through dance, through all of the arts, explaining: “It is very rewarding to have the Urban Nutcracker be accepted by the Greater Boston community and be known as an enduring holiday classic. When it first premiered shortly after 9/11, it became clear that this production embraced multi-culturalism and represented a more inclusive holiday tradition. Little did I know back then that this inclusivity can bring us all together through dance as an art form which heals and unites.”

Tickets for the Urban Nutcracker are $25 to $85 each, and can be purchased here. The show runs through December 31 at the Back Bay Events Center in Boston. I recommend the Urban Nutcracker to those seeking to add a great Boston tradition to their holiday plans and to anyone who loves dance. It’s also a terrific show for families, judging by the enthusiasm of the many, many children in the audience on the night my son and I attended.

Urban Nutcracker

Photo credit: Peter Paradise