New ‘Nutcracker’

OCCC stu­dents will present a hip-hop in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the hol­i­day clas­sic.

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - BY BRANDY MCDON­NELL Fea­tures Writer bm­c­don­[email protected]

The first time Chris Shep­ard saw “RACE’s Hip Hop Nutcracker” he knew he had to be a part of it.

“Lit­er­ally, that next week­end, I was part of RACE Dance Com­pany,” he re­called with a grin.

Now mark­ing six years as a mem­ber of the Ok­la­homa City pro­fes­sional hip-hop, con­tem­po­rary and jazz dance com­pany, Shep­ard is play­ing for the se­cond time the ti­tle role in RACE’s high-en­ergy adap­ta­tion of the Christ­mas clas­sic.

The sev­enth an­nual “RACE’s Hip Hop Nutcracker” will fea­ture a cast of nearly 150 dancers at four per­for­mances Satur­day and Sun­day at Ok­la­homa City Com­mu­nity Col­lege’s Vis­ual and Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter The­ater. Along with the 15 pro­fes­sion­als in RACE Dance Com­pany and 24 dancers from Teen and Ju­nior RACE, about 100 high-school stu­dents from eight Ok­la­homa City Pub­lic Schools will take the stage for the hol­i­day show.

“For the com­pany, it’s re­ally an in­vest­ment in what dance is gonna be in the fu­ture . ... We want to be out there and work­ing with those kids,” said Hui Cha Poos, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of RACE, which stands for Rad­i­cal Ap­pli­ca­tion of Cre­ative En­ergy. “And they have ac­cess to pro­fes­sional dancers. A lot of kids, es­pe­cially in the lower-served com­mu­ni­ties, don’t feel like their dreams are ac­ces­si­ble. But if they have some­one right there in front of them that they can talk to about things in their fu­ture, then it makes it a lit­tle bit at­tain­able.”

Stu­dents in­volved in dance pro­grams at South­east, U.S. Grant, Dou­glass, John Mar­shall, North­west Classen and Capi­tol Hill high schools, Ok­la­homa Cen­ten­nial Mid-High School and Classen School of Ad­vance Stud­ies will per­form in Poos’ adap­ta­tion of the clas­si­cal bal­let. The show melds Py­otr Tchaikovsky’s fa­mil­iar score with pop­u­lar mu­sic, in­clud­ing Ali­cia Key’s “Su­per­woman,” James Brown’s “Su­per Bad” and the “Su­per Mario Bros.” theme.

Start­ing in Septem­ber, RACE dancer/chore­og­ra­phers work with their des­ig­nated high schools on a weekly ba­sis to pre­pare for the yule­tide show.

“It’s al­ways re­ally awe­some to have guest chore­og­ra­phers come in and teach you a piece,” said Capi­tol Hill ju­nior Cielo Pal­lares, who is per­form­ing in her se­cond “RACE’s Hip Hop Nutcracker.” “I like meet­ing the dif­fer­ent peo­ple … and be­ing with the dance pro­fes­sion­als, it re­ally teaches you a lot. I feel like it opens doors for you.”

Chris Shep­ard dances dur­ing a Nov. 29 re­hearsal for “RACE’s Hip Hop Nutcracker” at RACE Dance Com­pany, 11 N Lee Ave., in Ok­la­homa City. Shep­ard plays the show’s ti­tle char­ac­ter.

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