Debbie Allen Dance Academy’s Hot Chocolate Nutcracker comes to Redondo!
And, how sweet it is.
- Written byMarlene Stang
For the first time in the show’s eight-year history, the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) is bringing Hot Chocolate Nutcracker to the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center for its annual, always highly anticipated theatrical production. Running December 7–10 with five scheduled performances, Hot Chocolate Nutcracker was written, directed and choreographed by Debbie Allen—a powerhouse Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning dancer, choreographer, actress and producer who is currently starring as Dr. Catherine Avery on the hit series Grey’s Anatomy.
All of the proceeds from this three-time Nutty Award-winning production will benefit arts education for youth in Greater Los Angeles through DADA, Debbie’s nonprofit, which offers a comprehensive dance curriculum to students ages 4 and up. We spoke with Debbie about Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, its supporters and contributors, the mission of DADA and why you should see this production.
What was your primary motivation—and source of inspiration—for re-imagining this beloved classic ballet?
The real inspiration was my son Thump. I took him to see a performance of The Nutcracker when he was 6, and he was bored to death. At one point during the performance he shouted, “Mom! When is the rat coming on?” Some people in the audience laughed at that, but it got me thinking. Gil Cates from Geffen [the late theatre director and Debbie’s mentor] said, “You need to do a Christmas show.”
So I made the mouse a New York rat named Harvey with two sidekicks! The story still starts with a party, but Kara (instead of Clara) visits new lands like Egypt, an Indian rain forest with a Bollywood-style dance sequence and a Land of the Kimono Dolls. The mice from the original production are now flamenco-dancing cockroaches. Young people love it! And since the first performance [at UCLA’s Royce Hall], we’ve been asked to bring it to Washington D.C. and New York City. We’re so busy but very happy to bring it to the South Bay.
Tell us about your partnership with the Annenberg Foundation.
The Annenberg Foundation has been an integral supporter of all of the work we do at DADA. With support from Annenberg, we provide not only training and performance opportunities but scholarships and lecture demonstrations across the country. We did Freeze Frame, a performance about gun violence. And we’re also launching a dance program for cancer survivors.
Annenberg has gotten behind our progressive vision and is interested in supporting organizations that exhibit leadership and just get out there and do the work. DADA has also received support from organizations like Shonda Rhimes’ foundation [the Rhimes Family Foundation], the Berry Gordy Family Foundation, the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation and anonymous donors.
It’s been a great journey so far. Our supporters trust our programs and believe in developing kids. DADA has seen a diaspora of the kids we work with going on to perform on Broadway. Establishing a legacy and lineage is important to us, and our greatest goal is to expand the footprint of what the arts can do … especially now that arts education is being taken out of schools.
I understand that the production is coming to the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center due to huge audience demand. How did this all unfold?
We actually almost came to the South Bay once before but had already committed to an engagement at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. We’re excited … Redondo Beach has an incredible audience, and the facility is beautiful. We’ve been well received at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center whenever we’ve visited, like with our Summer Intensive program of kids from all over the country.
What was it like developing the score with six other artists [Mariah Carey, Arturo Sandoval, Chau-Giang Thi Nguyen, James Ingram, Shiamak Davar, Tena Clark and Norm “Thump” Nixon]? Did you express your vision and just let them run with it?
I shared my vision with each artist and then collaborated with each artist, one-on-one. Mariah just told me I could use whatever songs of hers I wanted. I had already choreographed and directed three of her world tours, including her Butterfly Tour.
You have had a long and celebrated career in the arts as a dancer, choreographer, actress and producer. What motivates you to stay active in both dance and the world of TV and film?
It fuels me! The main challenge is scheduling, but I’ve always been inspired to tell a story, and dance and acting both let me do that. In Fame (both the 1980 film and the TV series)
I choreographed, danced and acted. I’ve just always done a lot of things and done them all well.
What would you like people who are contemplating buying tickets to know, especially those who see a traditional rendition of The Nutcracker every year and who are now considering taking their family to see Hot Chocolate Nutcracker?
Hot Chocolate Nutcracker is funny for all ages! And it’s very relevant in its exploration of cultural identities and diversity. It will make you laugh. As a fresh take on The Nutcracker, it will turn Christmas on its head … in a good way!