Christmas Reviews Theater

Boston’s ‘Slutcracker’ is bold, bawdy but not boring

From "The Slutcracker" Facebook page.

Somerville, Massachusetts, U.S.A. – “The Slutcracker” is for those who find Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” stuffy and antiquated, bringing the burlesque spin-off of the Russian ballet to Boston-area residents.
Before it premiered in winter 2008, the production team visited the Czech Republic to record its complete orchestral score under the guise that they were working for the Boston Ballet Company, according to director and founder Vanessa White. They were afraid that classical musicians would refuse to play for such a provocative and unconventional production she told the audience at a recent performance at the Somerville Theatre.
After 10 years of runs and many accolades, the burlesque spin-off is proof that political expression works — even for the established institution of ballet.
“The Slutcracker” is “Nutcracker-ish,” said White, and certainly, aspects of the burlesque differ from its origin.
Instead of a family scene, Clara (Isabella Picunte) is immured in the domestic tranquility of a new engagement and Christmas party.
Drosselmeyer, the Godfather in the story who gives Clara the nutcracker, takes the form of Clara’s friend who encourages her to liberate herself sexually, against the reservations of her more conservative partner.
When Clara finally experiences her sexual awakening, the audience is mesmerized and charmed by her transformation, contrary to the typical response to a taboo subject. The moment persists: Clara is permanently liberated from the traditional binds of her sexuality – and much more.
The show, which closes on New Year’s Eve, isn’t just a hyper-sexualized version of “The Nutcracker.” Revolving around a character’s sexual awakening, the show extends the meaning of the expression of freedom through different mediums.
Ironically, the standout performance of “The Slutcracker” doesn’t depend on the quality of dancing, but the diversity of genres and cast. Keeping with the sexualized theme, the pole dancers are employed in the variations of traditional segments, such as “Dance of the Reed Pole.”
That being said, the combination of so many genres presents more as scattered than harmonious to the trained eye, but this deviation from the norm becomes all the more entertaining.
The show’s political statement really sets the production apart from its family-friendly origin. From the beginning, “The Slutcracker” has almost too much to say. A woman dances while wearing a replica of Melania Trump’s controversial jacket with the slogan, “I don’t care. Do you?”, keeping up with the cultural relevancy of the show itself.
Most noticeably, the cast of dancers is incredibly diverse. White herself was told by the Boston Ballet that she was “too fat” to be a ballerina. Now, the tenth-year installment of the spin-off features women and men of different body types, people of color, and people with disabilities, who would rarely be featured on the stage at the Boston Opera House.
In presenting its raunchy spin-off, “The Slutcracker” inadvertently created a culture of dance that is rooted in tradition but appealingly fresh.
Even the audience at the production is much more diverse and certainly less high-brow than the average ballet-goer. However, they may represent the mass of people disillusioned by the antiquity and exclusion of the ballet industry. In employing a diverse cast of dancers and demonstrating non-traditional genres, “The Slutcracker” brings its roots to the modern era, advocating for the sexual liberation of women.
The show’s punchline is all in the name. “The Slutcracker” aims to poke fun at the repressive industry and the cultural use and etymology of “the slut,” but ends up doing much more.
“The Slutcracker” demonstrates a stride of progress and inclusion, creating a culture of universal empowerment for its dancers.
Yunkyo Kim is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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