Walter’s World: The Black Nutcracker

By Walter Rutledge

The holiday season is a time special time of the year. It is a time for merriment, when we share meaningful experiences and create lifelong memories with the ……ones we love- especially our children. For the second consecutive year The Black Nutcracker will be presented in the village of Harlem at the world famous Apollo Theater. The Black Nutcracker will take place on Thursday December 16 at 7pm. The production is an entertaining family oriented holiday extravaganza, which has something for everybody.

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Uptown Dance Academy Founder/ Artistic Director Robin Williams has choreographed an entertaining “urban” version of the traditional holiday classical. The Black Nutcracker is a unique dance/theatre odyssey that blends the classical elements with nontraditional and urban dance styles. The music also reflects this esthetic; it includes excerpts from the original Tchaikovsky Nutcracker score, a jazz adaptation of the Nutcracker Suite by the great Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, gospel, pop and live African drumming. Special guest artists American Ballet Theater dancers Misty Copeland and Tobin Eason will dance in the gala performance; and actress Victoria Rowell (The Young And The Restless and Diagnosis Murder) will host the event.

This is the fifteenth year the production has been presented by The Uptown Dance Academy. The Black Nutcracker has been part of Williams unwavering commitment to bring ballet to the Harlem community. The Apollo Gala performance is a special fundraiser; the proceeds will be used to offset the schools operating costs and provide scholarship assistance to deserving students.

Williams, a classically trained dancer with a diverse background, saw the need to provide dance training for the children of Harlem. In 1996 she founded the Uptown Dance Academy. For over fourteen years the school has provided dance training and performance opportunity for youth ages three through nineteen. “No other theatrical dance school in New York City provides the type of structured training programs that Uptown Dance Academy offers”, confirms William. “Our program is designed to expose children to the discipline and diversity of dance and to prepare the most talented students for the professional stage.”

The Uptown Dance Academy has been located in East Harlem for over ten years. The school is presently located at 161 East 121st Street; and offers dance instruction to approximately one hundred and fifty young people. Classes in ballet, tap, modern, jazz, acrobatics, hip-hop and African dance are offered daily Monday through Saturday. The facility is also the home of the performing ensemble the Uptown Kids Urban Dance Theatre.

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Many of the young people attending the Uptown Dance Academy live at or below the poverty level. The Academy provides scholarships for eligible students and stipends for the members of the performing ensemble. No student has ever been turned away because of financial difficulties.

In keeping with the organization’s commitment to community outreach and awareness the Uptown Dance Academy will also offer the Community Cultural Arts Performance Series. The series will consist of two one-hour abridged daytime young audience performances on Thursday December 16. These performances will provide an opportunity to introduce approximately three thousand young people to The Black Nutcracker and the magic of dance/theater.

Ticket prices for the Thursday evening gala range from $30 to $150. There will be A Land of Sweets Meet the Stars VIP Reception immediately following the performance at the Alhambra Ballroom. Special group rates are available for groups of 20 or more. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster, the Apollo box office or through this direct link Uptown Dance Academy! . For more information about the Uptown Dance Academy call (212) 987-5030 or visit www.UptownDanceAcademy.com.

In Photo: 1) Misty Copeland* 2) Robin William** 3) Jade Nair**

Photo credit: *Gene Schiavone ** Hubert Delancey

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