When the Apollo Theatre’s thick velvet burgundy curtains rise for The 15th Annual Black Nutcracker/Uptown Dance Academy gala presentation, on Thursday, December 16 in Harlem, the audience will experience a grand and beautiful display of genius in action, grace in motion and more.
Many hands, many hours, many hundreds of details and a modicum of history are coming together for this grand display of Harlem genius in action, grace in motion.
Talented dancers will bring to life UDA director Robin William’s brilliant expansion on Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s music and Marius Petipa’s choreography for the original 19th century Nutcracker ballet. Williams’ interpretation is a unique, soul-fulfilling mélange of African Dance-on-Pointe, Praise Dance, the Cha-Cha slide, Hip-Hop and classical Ballet, performed to music by, among others, Duke Ellington and The Commodores, seasoned with a unique flare of live African drums.
Hosted by the lovely actress Victoria Rowell and featuring guest performers Misty Copeland and Tobin Eason from the American Ballet Theatre, the event will entertain, impress and inspire. It also will help the Academy bring in much-needed funds to keep dance programs functioning and imaginations like Ms. Williams’ fluid.
“The economic climate has put a strain in sponsorship funds from companies and organizations but despite, the economic hardship, the Uptown Dance Academy has been able to get numerous service-based sponsorships from businesses in the community to benefit the fundraising project,” Ms. Williams, who founded the Uptown Dance Academy in 1996. “We are appreciative of the hard work and generosity of our community-based sponsors: Make My Cake, Harlem News Group Inc, Essential Request, The Little Gym, Spaha Café, Hue-Man Bookstore & Café, Bikram Yoga East Harlem, G2, NY Department of Cultural Affairs and Mobay Uptown Restaurant.”
That backing also comes from community leaders like Councilwoman Inez E. Dickens, the event honorary chair, and honorary co-chair Lloyd Williams of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce. Councilwoman Dickens’ and Mr. Williams’ personal largesse and professional missions have educated, entertained and empowered families and children for decades at institutions like the Uptown Dance Academy, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and myriad other Harlem-based arts programs.
Councilwoman Dickens told Our Time Press, “Performing and literary arts programs that benefit young people culturally and academically have always inspired my support. In fact, having dance lessons as a child established my early interest in the arts. I support the Uptown Dance Academy and their work. Giving back to the dance community is very important for the entire community.”
Uptown Dance Academy is dedicated to providing high-quality dance training to a multi-cultural youth community of East Harlem. It provides a 6-week, full-time Summer Boot Camp for intensive training; and offers a Pre-Professional Training Program for advanced students and youth at the dance theatre company. Students, ages 16-19 are taught many dance disciplines, including ballet, tap, modern, jazz, acrobatics, hip-hop and African dance.
“The Black Nutcracker shows the efforts and talents of our students, their determination is contagious,” Ms. Williams says. “When you see The Black Nutcracker you witness hope for the future.”
There’s also a connection to the past: The storyline we know today as The Nutcracker with the Sugar Plum Fairy, Mouse King and the Nutcracker-King is an adaptation (of E.T. Hoffman’s original adult-focused story) by the great 19th century writer Alexandre Dumas pere, whose paternal grandmother was of African descent.
Event tickets range from $23.50 to $146.50. Contact: Apollo Theater, 212-531-5300, www.apollotheater.org and Uptown Dance Academy, 212-987-5030, www.uptowndanceacademy.com.