When I think of the term “chocolate nutcracker,” I wonder what that means. Is it a chocolate-covered instrument? A new dessert fad that everyone is trying? Or is it a dark-skinned man going around cracking jokes, and everyone calls him a “nut”? Oh wait, that’s Martin Lawrence.
No, no. The Chocolate Nutcracker is a stage performance set in the tradition of The Nutcracker
“The Chocolate Nutcracker was written about 25 years ago, because there was a need for black people to see a regular Nutcracker that fed them culturally,” said the show’s director and creator, Linda Jones. “I decided to write a show that related to a diverse community.”
This year’s show took place Dec. 5 at the Broward County Main Library in Fort Lauderdale.
Jones’ dance studio, Ashanti Cultural Arts, founded in March 1990, has been organizing this show for ten years. Some of its students perform in the show.
In the 10th Annual Chocolate Nutcracker show, family members gather in their living room to celebrate Kwanzaa. After the presents are opened, and everyone goes to bed, the youngest daughter of the group, played by Gheavonna Samuel, comes back into the living room. She sits under the lit Christmas tree and eventually falls asleep. In her dreams, she sees ten performances.
Some of the performances are good and some should have made her scratch her hair. For this review, I will not cover every performance, just touch on the ones that stood out.
One stand-out performer is Pablo Malco, who does a dance routine for the pieces “Closer” and “Black Man Cry.” Malco is light on his feet and calls to mind dancers like Columbus Short, Chris Brown and Usher. He has great stage presence and is quite flexible. No dance move is too difficult for Malco.
Speaking of dancing, Michelle Harvey, who does triple duty as the story teller of “The Night of Kwanzaa,” plays the aunt of the family, and does a rendition of Michael Jackson moves, set to Smooth Criminal. If MJ could have seen the moves by Ms. Harvey, he just might have rolled over in his grave. Harvey can moonwalk well and moonwalk in a circle, which is admirable.
But just because one can moonwalk, wear a sequined glove, and make a Michael Jackson face, does not mean they belong on a stage, in front of an audience. It almost seemed wrong.
Now, the show wasn’t all rolling-my-eyes talent. Leroy Fellis, who gives an inspiring operatic rendition of “Nel Cor Piunon Sento,” was quite enjoyable. I loved seeing a young black man with such a great singing voice who wasn’t trying to serenade a girl into sleeping with him. Fellis has great stage talent and would do well to carry himself to Broadway, immediately – after he finishes school, of course.
I also enjoyed “Alfleyla,” a belly dance routine. The dancers, Nilly, Sabine, Anela, Alandra, and Renata have the belly moves down to every shimmy.
Another phenomenal performance was that of Claudine Carter, who danced to the “Sugar Plum Fairy” with great classical form. Being the only classical ballet dancer of the show, she stood out in a good light with her beautiful red, white and sky-blue costume.
Last, but not least, I would like to mention the Silent Worshipers Mime Ministry, who performed a piece called “Stand.” Lee Breadlove, Cyrus Johnson, Ashley Murray, Althea Simon-Thompson, and Darius Whitehead managed to really call forth the inner mime, yet not be creepy. Although, I will say, when they first appeared on stage, they looked like a weird cult.
Don’t get me wrong: These young men and women are quite talented. But they reminded me of my friend, Jonathan, who scared me to no end when I first met him. He used to come to school in a white face and black trench coat. He used to look like a terrorist. Thank goodness for growing up.
The show had some strong points and weak points. I’m glad, though, that it speaks to people of the brown persuasion. I also like that there was opera and classic ballet, paying homage to the original Nutcracker. Also, the African drummers were a nice touch.
ballet, but with people of all shades of brown, like chocolate.KAliciaG@Aol.com
To find out more information on the Ashanti Cultural Arts dance studio and The Chocolate Nutcracker, you can check out their respective websites at www.ashanticulturalarts.com and chocolatenutcracker.org.
For more information on the Silent Worshippers Mime Ministry, you can go to www.myspace.com/silentworshipers05.