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BEST DANCE PERFORMANCE Minneapolis 2004 - The Nutcracker

Ah, The Nutcracker...that annual tradition featuring a war between rats and toy soldiers, aloof sugarplum fairies, a young girl's coming of age, and a magical Christmas tree that grows larger when the grown-ups go to bed! Hmmm. Seems more like a fine opportunity to riff on dysfunctional family dynamics, consumerism, sex, and all those things that make our seasons bright. The Ballet of the Dolls has developed its hipster Nutcracker?! (Not So) Suite over several years, but last December the troupe ventured into the Ordway's McKnight Theater for a grander production. Kevin McCormick joyfully reprised his role as the chic Upper East Side Momma to Julie Tehven's ingenue Marie--an awkward teen consumed by adoration for her Ken doll. Meanwhile, Zhauna Franks elevated her Barbie portrayal to superheroine status and Stephanie Fellner infused the Rat Queen with Angelina Joliesque dominatrix verve. The Dolls even offered up a "naughty" version for those who like their Nutcracker with more sauce (and skimpier lingerie). Few have dared to challenge the underlying premise of this seemingly innocent ballet, but Johnson, who skillfully combines a true love of the classics with the subversive genius to reimagine them, really delivers the holiday cheer.

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