Cutno jazzes up classic with 'Nutcracker in The South'

Cutno Dance Center presents Nutcracker in The South on Sunday, Dec. 8, with Alese Brown (back row, from left), Tatum Minter, Nyel Lawrence and Savanna Harrison; Gabrielle Johnson (middle row, from left), Benton McMahon and Kennedi Brantley; and Samira Furse (front row, from left), Kennedi Johnson and Naday Booker.



Seeing The Nutcracker ballet is a Christmas tradition for many, but for dancers who spend months each year listening to Tchaikovsky’s familiar score, there is a desire to do something new and fresh with the music and story.

“Our story line has pretty much the same perspective. The Brown family is throwing a holiday party,” said Ferneasa Cutno, the artistic director at Cutno Dance Center, who has created a contemporary Nutcracker in The South.

The performance will be presented at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center. “But their friends, the Martins, just lost their home in a fire on Thanksgiving.”

The adults give the Martins money at the party, and the Browns’ daughter, Coco, invites the Martins’ daughter, Melanie, to spend the night. During the sleepover, the two enter the magical Land of the Sweets – but with a twist.

Instead of sticking strictly to ballet and the traditional Tchaikovsky themes, Cutno blends in Duke Ellington’s jazz version of the Christmas classic and adds a few other pieces, such as music from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

In addition, there are hip-hop, modern, African, tap and contemporary dances as well as a visit from Santa and his elves.

Cutno also incorporates the religious theme of the Christmas holiday by having her professional dancers perform to O Holy Night.

“The production reminds me of The Wizard of Oz. There are a lot of parallels,” she said.

Tickets are $15 for children and $20 for adults in advance at Tickets at the door are $18 for children and $23 for adults. For more details, call (706) 364-3442.