Denim & Tulle: Jersey City Nutcracker 2015

by Lenore Holz

Nimbus Dance Works presented Jersey City Nutcracker 2015 for ten performances: six school matinees, and four public performances over the weekend of December 18th, 19th, and 20th at Conwell Middle School Auditorium in Downtown, Jersey City.

With talent and design on par with any major performing arts center, Nimbus interpreted Tchaikovsky’s cherished ballet through Jersey City’s urban community style reflecting the city’s diversity, energy, and come-as-you-are “chill.”

“Russians” in denim, ballerinas in tulle, holiday sweets, and magical toys all danced to a recorded classic score, adopting a contemporary edge while keeping true to the production’s traditional whimsy.

The classic Nutcracker portrays “Mother Ginger” and her baby “Polichinelles” (French for “punch” meaning “bon bons”) dancing out from her vaulted, hooped dress. What exotic sweets represent Jersey City? Those of Italian creation, with a historical nod, bringing the “Mama Cannoli” character to life, with her cookie children tip-toeing out from the hem of her tall, tented dress on wheels. No small logistical feat, I imagine.

Drawing from Nimbus’ own repertory company and school as well as students from Jersey City public schools, performance styles ranged from modern soloists and hip hop ensembles to exquisite pointe duets, their tales playfully threaded together through several narrators, complete with a love story.

The extensive company rotated most cast members for each show, at times interacting with an audience of about one-third families with children for the Sunday matinee.

Act one, titled “A Dark and Dreary City,” explored storylines playing out between urban-dwelling characters Maria, Christopher/Christina, and Shape Shifters, as well as the familiar Drosselmeyer, Mayor, and Rat King.

Act two, “A Glimmering Vision,” saw a dancing Statue of Liberty surrounded by Liberty Angels, B-Boys/B-Girls, a Spanish Gente de la Fiesta, a Bridge ‘n’ Tunnel Princess & Stud, and Waltz Hipster Soloist among other colorful performances.

A dancing Statue of Liberty surrounded by Liberty Angels

A dancing Statue of Liberty surrounded by Liberty Angels

Spanish Gente de la Fiesta

Spanish Gente de la Fiesta

Bridge ‘n’ Tunnel Princess & Stud

Bridge ‘n’ Tunnel Princess & Stud

Samuel Pott leads the critically acclaimed company as Founding Artistic Director. Pott began the nonprofit in 2005 with the mission stating: 

Nimbus Dance Works is committed to bringing dance into a dynamic relationship with the communities we serve, always acting in accord with our guiding principals of integrity, excellence and community.

We create and present programs of top level artistry that inspire audience members while building close ties between individuals and communities. Nimbus creates programs that serve traditional dance audiences and create new ones in its home of Jersey City while gaining regional and national prominence.

Founded in 2012, The School of Nimbus Dance Works offers high quality training in ballet, modern, and performance dance with exposure to other techniques for ages 2-18, including adult and ensemble classes, and a pre-professional track.

Classes are held at the school’s new Downtown Jersey City studio, and Nimbus also serves more than 1,100 youth with school-day and after-school dance curriculum at several Jersey City public schools, promising a fun, creative environment. Nimbus’ school’s 2016 spring schedule lists no fewer than 38 classes and company rehearsals which are available regardless of financial background through a scholarship program. A summer conservatory, “features workshops which focus on developing leadership skills, self-confidence, and teamwork” through dance, theater and music.

Nimbus Dance Works’ programs reach over 12,000 people annually including regular tours performing in New Jersey, New York and regional venues and festivals, and the organization enjoys collaborations with a long list of esteemed composers and artists.

Nimbus receives funding from large financial corporations, local developers, and major arts foundations, and maintains partnerships with such institutions as Rutgers University, and the Newark Museum.

With the score belonging to the Romantic Period, The Nutcracker originally premiered as a two-act ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia on Sunday, December 18, 1892 on a double-bill with Tchaikovsky's opera Iolanta. The custom of The Nutcracker holiday performances in the US took root in the late 1960s.

Audience members gathered in the public school hallway acting as a lobby to browse a pop-up shop for unique stocking stuffers and chat with friends and neighbors over refreshments.

Just about anyone who’s experienced this enchanting production will agree it’s a wondrous tradition to reprise, capturing our dreams and fears, and smiles through tears.

About the Writer

Lenore Holz landed in Jersey City in July 2001 and hasn’t looked back. She helps others solve problems as Brownstone Concierge, crafts organic teas and fresh lemonade as Iced Tea Fusion, and teaches yoga. A self­-identifying progressive, Lenore is committed to her community through advocating for animals, the local economy, and keeping Liberty State Park free and green. Lenore can be reached at #SaveLSP