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'Nutcracker' goes hip-hop

Creations Dance Theatre shows there's more than one way to crack a nut.

November 26, 2010|By Lance A. Wawer
(Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff…)

Mr. Tchaikovsky, meet "So You Think You Can Dance."

In the popular dance competition TV show, contestants at the top of their profession in various styles of dance are challenged to perform in styles for which they have no training.

Hip-hop dancers must perform contemporary; ballet dancers are forced to learn the fox trot; and ballroom dancers have to show that they can do a Bollywood routine. This exposure to unfamiliar styles improves them within their own discipline and turns them into more complete dancers, they say.

That's exactly what Burbank resident Raquel Cordova is trying to do with Creations Dance Theatre, Inc., a nonprofit arts organization. Together with co-founder and fellow dancer Felicia Guzman, Cordova created the dance company earlier this year with the intention of bringing other dance styles into the world of classical ballet.

"My background is Peruvian and hers is Mexican," Cordova said. "We wanted to incorporate the Latin influence into the ballet."

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With this spirit in mind, the dance company will present a one-night-only performance of Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 4. While it promises to capture the memorable tradition of the holiday classic, it will also offer some contemporary twists designed to broaden the appeal to a wider audience, Cordova said.

Their initial concept of incorporating Latin styles has since expanded to include even more influences ranging from hip-hop to taekwondo.

"We have created an atmosphere of collaboration so everyone feels ownership," Cordova said. "Having their ideas heard and incorporated into the choreography really draws out the shyer dancers."

One of those shy dancers is Cordova's 6-year-old son Johnny. Johnny will be performing as one of the children in "The Nutcracker." In the first rehearsal, the reserved youngster was encouraged to include some lessons he learned in his taekwondo classes in his dancing. After the rehearsal, Johnny excitedly told his mom, "I love ballet!"

Amara Baptist stars in the production as both Clara and the Sugar-Plum Fairy. Amara met Cordova and Guzman when they were performing together with the Burbank's Media City Ballet.

"I pretty much just do classical ballet," Baptist said. "I haven't taken classes in other styles, but I did an Afro-Peruvian show that Raquel designed, and it really whet my appetite for trying other styles of dance. When Raquel started Creations and asked me to join, I said 'yes!'"

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