"I wanted to break the rules," says Katie Smythe, director of the New Ballet Ensemble. And break the rules she did. Since its debut in 2003, the New Ballet Ensemble's annual holiday production Nut ReMix has become an untraditional tradition. The show, a uniquely Memphis take on the classic Tchaikovsky ballet, is more than electric — it's nuclear, a high-energy mash-up of its source material and this city's cultural high points.
Clara is a Central High School student who lives with her father on Beale Street. There is no mother on the scene, but Clara's father, who runs a café on Beale, is in love with the Pie Lady. On Christmas Eve, Clara is told by her father that she has to help at the café, which is packed with international travelers who've been stranded by a storm. Hip-hop dancers enliven the scene, as does a giant plastic rat (bought at A. Schwab for $17) that will play a big role in Clara's dream. Clara's "prince" is a 19-year-old boy off to the army.
The Nutcracker's pas de deux between Clara and the soldier remains, as does the "Waltz of the Flowers," but thrown in Nut ReMix are cutting-edge dance by William Forsythe of the Frankfurt Ballet, African drumming, hip-hop dancing, a Duke Ellington number, and avant-garde flamenco music. The flamenco number was choreographed by Noelia Garcia Carmona, who will be in the show this year.
According to Smythe, she's heard only one complaint since breaking the rules. The rest have been raves. "They say things like, You've made my Christmas, because it transforms the audience. That's my goal with every production."
"Nut ReMix" Preview Party, Sunday, December 7th, at 5 p.m. Tickets are $75, $135 for two at the Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center. The evening will include champagne, punch, and hors d'oeuvres as well as African drumming before the show and a meet-and-greet with New Ballet Ensemble members after.
"Nut ReMix," December 12th and 13th at 7:30 p.m. and December 14th at 2:30 p.m. at the Buckman. Tickets are $25 and $10 for children under 18. Tickets: newballet.org.