Local choreographers lampoon holiday treacle with “The Buttcracker,” an adult-themed “Nutcracker” set to a heavy-metal soundtrack.
Three ballerinas dance around oversized Christmas presents, playing ring toss with oversized sex toys. The music quickly transitions from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” to Aerosmith’s “Ragdoll.” The dancers move their arms stiffly, like windup toys, then skip around the stage in bouncy black tutus and wigs with huge black ringlets.
This is “The Buttcracker,” an adult-themed holiday show loosely based on “The Nutcracker” that swaps pink tutus for sparkly lingerie and classical music for hair-metal bands like Foreigner, Def Leppard and Queen.
The artful mix of professional dance and raunchy satire is the brainchild of local choreographers Diana Cardiff and Sara Jinks (who’ve both danced for Pat Graney Company and d9 Dance Collective) and Jana Hill and Matt Mulkerin (formerly of the Mid America Dance Company in St. Louis). “I think many of us have nostalgia for these songs, whether it’s in a good way or a bad way,” Cardiff says. “The way we use this music makes people enjoy it (even if) they wouldn’t choose to listen to it on the radio.”
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday Dec. 20 at Erickson Theatre Off Broadway, 1524 Harvard Ave., Seattle; $20-$22 (206-329-1050 or strangertickets.com).
Although all ages are welcome to attend, some scenes — which caricature drug use and commodification of women — could leave parents with a few awkward conversation topics.
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At a recent “Buttcracker” rehearsal, Mulkerin played a cocaine-pushing Frosty the Snowman who corrupts three ballerinas and an innocent-looking Clairol — the “Buttcracker” version of “Nutcracker’s” Clara, performed by Hannah Rae of Seattle Youth Dance Collective — to the tunes of “Cold as Ice” by Foreigner and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard.
In a take on “The Nutcracker’s” famous snow scene, three “snowflake” ballerinas pirouette and bouree around Frosty while he snorts the snow falling around them. As the snowflakes slowly transition from ballet steps to funky, hip-thrusting movements from 1980s MTV videos, Clairol dances a sexy pas de deux with Frosty, gyrating her hips and stripping off her pretty blue nightgown to reveal leopard-print shorts and sparkly black lingerie. The number, called “Frosty Flakes,” is as disturbing as it is entertaining in its frank illustration of dangerous seductions that can emerge from innocent-seeming places.
As described by Jinks, the number titled “Claus Your Eyes,” danced to “Close Your Eyes Forever” by Lita Ford and Ozzy Osborne, involves Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus — with mullets and torn denim — in a moment of marital tension. And “Dance of the Drunkles” features Cornish College of the Arts professor Wade Madsen as one of four drunk uncles dancing around a giant keg to the music of Queen.
Dark and bawdy Christmas performances aren’t new. Seattle-born, world-famous choreographer Mark Morris produced a darkly sexual, contemporary-dance version of “The Nutcracker” called “The Hard Nut” in 1991, and Mid America Dance Company (now MADCO) toured a spoof titled “The Madcracker” in the late 1980s. Seattle has the Triple Door’s “Burlesque Nutcracker,” the wildly popular variety-drag show “Homo for the Holidays” and the 2003-2007 run of “Buttrock Suites,” the inspiration for and foundation of “The Buttcracker.”
Cardiff, who was intimately involved with “Buttrock Suites” in the early 2000s, says “The Buttcracker” is unique among its idiosyncratic holiday-dance brethren. “Nothing’s been done quite like this,” Cardiff says. “It’s a celebration of the holidays with the feel of being at a rock concert, except that it’s dance combined with ‘the Christmas spirit’ and altered in kind of a gritty way where it’s not always pretty.”