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Nutcracker Rouge

A talented and sexy ensemble brings this decidedly adult update of the Nutcracker story to life.

By New York City
David Martinez, Michael Hodge, Laura Careless
and Jeff Takacs in Nutcracker Rouge
(© Corey Tatarczuk)
David Martinez, Michael Hodge, Laura Careless
and Jeff Takacs in Nutcracker Rouge
(© Corey Tatarczuk)
Nutcracker Rouge -- presented by Company XIV at its home base of 303 Bond Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn -- certainly lives up to its subtitle of "a baroque burlesque confection." Conceived, choreographed, and directed by Austin McCormick, this dance theater event is filled with skimpily clad performers enacting a decidedly adult update to the Nutcracker story.

The proceedings are run by Drossselmeyer (Jeff Takacs), who in this incarnation has a tendency to wear thigh-high spike-heeled boots, and to cross-dress as the sister of Marie Antoinette. He has brought his adult goddaughter Marie-Claire (Laura Careless) to the Kingdom of the Sweets in the hopes she might be a fitting queen for the Nutcracker Prince (David Martinez), who has sequestered himself away following the events of the classic ballet, such as the defeat of the Mouse King and his army, which is mentioned in passing.

The show incorporates selections from Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's classic Nutcracker score -- most notably the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," which is a raunchy solo for Marie-Claire that actually starts out as a pole dance. But the pre-recorded accompaniment encompasses a wide range of styles, and also includes music by Duke Ellington, Antonio Vivaldi, and more.

The bulk of the performance features the talented and sexy ensemble in dances that correspond to various sweets, and which fully exploit any kind of food-sex connections. For example, a female trio (Marla Phelan, Mina Lawton, and Delphina Parenti) perform as highly sensual cherries in a jazz-flavored number; Marisol Cabrera's dance as Chocolate is a flamenco striptease; and male dancers Sean Gannon and Michael Hodge do a rather athletic routine as the Licorice Boys, who are clad in black leather thongs.

Both sets and costumes are by Zane Pihlstrom, who has contributed beautifully opulent work that evokes the baroque era (particularly with the dancers' shoes), while also bringing out a fetishistic aspect that feels completely contemporary. The attire for the French macaroon segment is particularly eye-catching, as several of the women wear the frame of a farthingale without the actual skirt, while the men (and even one of the women) have ripped trousers that expose colored dildos.

Throughout the performance, McCormick and his troupe subvert gender and sexuality norms. In the Turkish Delight sequence, Gannon and Hodge initially lead out female dancer Yeva Glover in what seems to be a classic instance of male domination. However, the tables are soon turned with the male dancers blindfolded and made the subservient ones. There are also plenty of homoerotic moments, for both male and female performers alike.

The production is obviously not for everyone, but those looking for an alternative to standard holiday fare are likely to find plenty here to savor.


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