Hang onto your seat— The Joffrey Ballet has given The Nutcracker a whole new scene.
Try serving the turkey without stuffing some year and you’ll understand what The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago gambled when it rolled out a wholly revamped production of The Nutcracker in 2016. Even with acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon as its creative mastermind and the Tchaikovsky score intact, the new version leaped into risky territory—holiday-memories-wise, anyway— when it switched up the beloved ballet’s familiar storyline and characters. In the new version, Marie is an Eastern European immigrant girl in pre-world’s Fair Chicago, and the nutcracker-gifting Herr Drosselmeyer is a take on acclaimed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, who oversaw development of the 1893 fair’s 150 buildings. Paris-born Fabrice Calmels plays that role on some nights. On others, he’s an Arabian dancer who, with dancer Christine Rocas, electrifies the house with a super-steamy variation on the previous production’s already-pretty-hot Arabian dance. The world’s tallest ballet dancer at 6-foot-6, Fabrice is also a bit of a celeb. His 108,000 Instagram followers heart photos of his rehearsals and performances as a lead dancer for The Joffrey; his snuggly cat, Bella; and modeling gigs that happen to (pretty often) feature his cobblestone abs. We chatted with Fabrice about what it takes to dance and love the new production, which runs December 1–30.