In Seattle, chillier weather means that an array of colorful dance performances will soon be taking place. ‘Tis the season for sugar plums in pasties, show-stopping “homos,” in addition to the PNB classic at McCaw Hall. Despite having only two years under its belt, there’s one production that’s found a way to ingratiate itself into local holiday tradition. Hint: it’s the one that makes “hair metal” synonymous with “the holidays.”
Behold—The Buttcracker! Set to a soundtrack that’s Generation-X-approved, the performance returns for a third year in a row (i.e. Buttcracker III….even more crack!) to the Erickson Theatre. The multi-generational cast includes the four producers: Diana Cardiff, Sara Jinks, Matt Mulkerin and Jana L. Hill, Seattle dance veterans, as well as what they’ve affectionately nicknamed as “whippersnapper dancers,” millennials such as new cast member Becca Blackwell.
Cardiff, who will perform as ‘Mrs. Claus on her wedding day’ in the show, says getting to see artists take a break from more serious projects is part of the appeal; enjoy it while you can.
“We at Buttcracker-central are always unsure of the future, and three years seems like a nice triptych-tribute to Xmas,” Cardiff says. “We can’t promise we will continue the show next year; just not sure.”
On any given Sunday this November, Cardiff and her fellow producers can be found clad in sneakers, sweats, and Spinal Tap wigs at the top floor of the Seattle Center Armory. As they rehearse numbers such as “Spandex Five” and “Don’t Stop Believin,’” the other performers, including actors and roadies, enjoy the sheer silliness-ness on the sidelines.
“There’s a lot of laugher as we watch each other play and tease the scenes we are rehearsing,” says Amy J Lambert, another “whippersnapper” cast member who will saunter across the stage in a cell-block-tango inspired number. “I am most looking forward to hearing and watching audiences react to the crazy fun onstage.”
Despite its title, Buttcracker is less a spoof on The Nutcracker and more of a mixtape of all-things Christmas: audience members experience elements of the traditional Christmas pageant, ugly sweater references, and manger scenes. In fact, one of this year’s returning pieces includes a music video of Wade Madsen as God lip-syncing to “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Meanwhile on stage, Jenny May Peterson emerges from the cradle like an aphrodite-Jesus. A sensual body-roll movement prompts two wisemen to lift their bearded savior into the spotlight, as Peterson’s pointed feet dart back-and-forth like a ballerina.
Some of the new additions this year include the premiere of a short-film, a holiday “comb choir” where dancers will play instruments made from hair combs wrapped in wax paper, as well as a new work where “dancer Hendri Walujo may be revealing more flesh than we have ever shown in the past shows,” Cardiff says.
The first Buttcracker, which premiered in 2015, stemmed from Cardiff and her fellow producers’ original collaboration, a performance series called Buttrock Suites. Featuring work by choreographers such as Juliet Waller Pruzan and Crispin Spaeth, these modern-dance shows set to AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Journey developed a cult following in the early 2000s. While packing the house at venues such as Triple Door and Bumbershoot, Buttrock Suites offered a non-intimidating, joyous, and silly introduction to this thing called “modern dance.” That tradition continues now at Christmastime with The Buttcracker, and not just for those who came of age with The Breakfast Club. Hannah Rae (who dances the role of the Clara character, “Clairol”) is one 90s baby who’s learned to appreciate the music and pop culture from just before her time.
“I’ve met audience members who come not just every year, but more than once a year,” Rae says. “That makes me proud to be part of something that, beneath its raucous and irreverent exterior, really moves people and brings them together.”
Buttcracker III…even more crack! plays at the Erickson Theatre at 7:30 p.m. December 8-10 and 15-17, 2017. Tickets & info available here. A pay-what-you-can preview night is on Thursday, December 7.