The Nutcracker Dipped in Chocolate, a New Holiday Tradition?Dec 23, 2021 02:00PM ● By Karen Warrington
Image Courtesy of Chocolate Ballerina Company
As 2021 rushes to its end, and we are caught up in the energy of the holiday season, many of our thoughts are focused on traditions passed on for generations. Christmas has a whole set of traditions that have been shared by our families, but traditions change over the years and many Christmas traditions have now been blended with Kwanzaa celebrations. And, in many African American households, the decorating of the Christmas tree is as important as the lighting of the Kwanzaa candles.
In Philadelphia, for many years, attending the Pennsylvania Ballet’s holiday performance of The Nutcracker was a tradition for the girls in the family, even if there were no African American ballerinas. However, a few years later, Freedom Theater’s Black Nativity production emerged with African American actors, dancers, and singers and it quickly became a holiday must-see tradition. Sadly, Freedom Theater’s stage is dark now and our children will not experience the joy it brought to audiences.
But, just days before the holiday season was to come to an end, a possible new sparkling holiday arts tradition materialized in Philadelphia. The Nutcracker Dipped in Chocolate, produced by the Chocolate Ballerina Company at Drexel University’s Mandell Theater, drew a standing room only audience for two shows as more than 60 performers (all masked) and some as young as five years old showed their talent, beauty, and discipline before an adoring and appreciative overflow audience.
This wasn’t just a dance recital. This was a full production of The Nutcracker, a Russian ballet that dates back to 1892 with a soaring score by Tchaikovsky that has become one of his most famous compositions. The Nutcracker has been super popular in the U.S. and is performed by countless ballet companies throughout the nation.
But, remember the Chocolate Ballerina Company’s description of its Nutcracker production underscores that it was “dipped” in chocolate or melanin, meaning that for all of us who have over the years seen the white only productions of the Nutcracker, we now saw the faces, bodies, and artistry of dancers who looked like us.
Will the Nutcracker Dipped in Chocolate become a holiday classic tradition in the city? I certainly hope so. And, I hope that the founder of the dance company, Chanel Holland, continues with her very intentional mission of providing, “urban areas stripped of the opportunity to receive professional training and exposure to cross-studied dance forms, celebrate Black culture, and allow the community to witness the unknown.”
“Medo wo ase” and “E dupe” and yes, “Bravo” to the Chocolate Ballerina Company and Ms. Holland, a young visionary who deserves our year-round support.
Karen Warrington has had a decades long career as a broadcast journalist, communications professional, performing artist, and documentary filmmaker. She has traveled extensively throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. She is committed to being a voice for the African Diaspora.
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