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Nutcracker Rouge’s baroque burlesque Yuletide

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If you didn’t know before, it’s the pole-dancing Dewdrop that makes it abundantly clear that this is not your conventional sugarplum Nutcracker.

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Imagine instead that Marie Antoinette is throwing a bash at Le Petit Trianon – with Sally Rand and Gypsy Rose Lee and their burlesque buddies. More Balthus than Balanchine, Nutcracker Rouge (now playing through January 5, 2014) at the Minetta Lane Theatre) is Company XIV’s unorthodox reinterpretation of the beloved Yuletide classic.

For nearly two hundred years, ever since its publication in 1816, the tale of a young girl and her attempts to vanquish an evil Mouse King in the Land of Sweets has mesmerized audiences around the world.

Written by E.T.A. Hoffmann, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King was adapted for the ballet in 1892 by Tchaikovsky, with George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet version of The Nutcracker debuting in 1954.

Subtitled "a baroque burlesque confection,” Nutcracker Rouge features a cavalcade of jaw-dropping talent, including circus artists, contortionists, acrobats, flamenco dancers, and comedians. This is the kind of show where a neo-baroque Elvis-wannabe introduces Candy Cane (the mesmerizing Courtney Giannone) who performs inside a Cyr wheel, gyrating around the stage inside a large peppermint metal hoop.

Arguably Tchaikovsky's most famous score, The Nutcracker has inspired numerous revisions such as Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut, which examined adolescent sexuality and Matthew Bourne’s bubblegum Busby Berkeley confection Nutcracker!. The Joffrey Ballet has done a Currier and Ives version, while Donald Byrd’s The Harlem Nutcracker is set during the Harlem Renaissance. Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s jazz interpretation was called The Nutcracker Suite.

But none of these previous incarnations of The Nutcracker feature a Turkish Delight (the captivating aerialist Nicolas Maffey) wearing little more than a glittering g-string who balances on one hand while seducing Marie-Claire.

If you’ve seen Spiegelworld’s various shows performed inside the Spiegeltents that travel the world, then you’re familiar with the infectious pastiche of gender-bending cabaret and music hall numbers that keep an audience as animated as the performers.

A devotee of Baroque court dance, director/choreographer Austin McCormick has danced with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet of New York. In 2006, McCormick founded the Brooklyn-based dance and theatre troupe Company XIV, which takes its name - and raison d'être - from Louis XIV, "le Roi-Soleil." With Nutcracker Rouge, McCormick reimagines the hothouse court worlds depicted in films such as Kubrick's Barry Lyndon and Forman's Amadeus, where passions simmer beneath the powdered wigs.

Produced in collaboration with The Saint at Large, the force behind New York's notoriously renowned Black Party, the annual bacchanal to all things dark and fetishistic, Nutcracker Rouge unleashes the libido and lets the libertines run wild throughout the palace – and the result is a riotous romp through the Yuletide season.

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