Making fun of “The Nutcracker” ballet has become a popular holiday tradition in Portland.
So popular, in fact, that tickets to all seven of this year’s “Nutcracker Burlesque” satirical dance show sold out more than 10 days in advance of opening night.
But if you’re desperate to get in, you can arrive an hour or so before the show and put your name on a waiting list. Five minutes before the curtain goes up, any unclaimed seats will be sold to those on the list.
Now in its 10th year, Vivid Motion’s show — known for mixing naughty and nice — opens at the St. Lawrence Arts Center on Dec. 14 with 26 dancers and a saucy storyline.
In this “Nutcracker,” Clara is a waitress at a biker bar where some timid computer geeks decide to hold their office Christmas party. When Clara catches the eye of the king of all IT nerds (this year’s proxy for the Nutcracker Prince), a jealous Drosselmeyer tries to intervene as the threesome heads out on a wild pub crawl.
Mix in snowflakes in white lingerie, Mother Ginger leading a flash mob and a psychedelic Arabian nightclub, and you get an idea of what this show has to offer.
But what is it about dancing computer nerds and snowflakes in sexy nightgowns that attracts a full house year after year?
According to Shea Murphy of Scarborough, who dances the role of Drosselmeyer, “it’s the difference between a fancy gala and attending a really fun party where everyone cuts loose. That’s very much what it is like to attend our ‘Nutcracker.’ “
And Murphy should know: This is his fourth year in the show, and his second year dancing the role of Drosselmeyer. “This version of Drosselmeyer is about 60 percent less creepy uncle and a whole lot more devilish mystery,” he said.
One of 11 guys in this year’s production, Murphy got involved with the dance company and the “Nutcracker Burlesque” through his wife, Venus Murphy, who has been dancing since fourth-grade and landed the role of Clara this year.
“There’s no striptease for Clara,” Venus Murphy said. “But I do some really fast, crazy partner dancing with the Nutcracker prince, played by Gerry Shannon.”
One of the hallmarks of this show is how it incorporates jazz, hip hop and modern dance with traditional ballet moves.
While the show is for ages 18 and older and built around the principles of burlesque, it doesn’t feature nudity or particularly salacious dance numbers.
“It’s actually pretty modest,” said director MJ Emerson. “We do a lot of tease. It’s suggestive, but not overt. We want to keep it light and fun and tantalizing.”
With the exception of the snowflakes, which dance to a recording of Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Snowflakes,” the show is performed to live music played by music director Joe Paulus and the NB Ensemble. Some of the music riffs on Tchaikovsky’s originals, while other pieces draw from pop songs and rock ‘n’ roll.
Emerson, who has been part of the “Nutcracker Burlesque” since its inception in 2003, said the show led to the formation of the Vivid Motion dance company.
The company welcomes dancers of all shapes, sizes and experience levels (from novices to experts), and puts on three shows a year. In April, Vivid Motion will stage a dance called the “Seven Voyages of Sinbad” and in July will host “Revival,” a retrospective of past dance shows.
Vivid Motion is known for its “Nutcracker Burlesque,” but it’s not a burlesque dance company.
“We’re a dance company that happens to do a burlesque show at Christmas,” Emerson said.
And like all of its past shows, this “Nutcracker” will come with its share of surprises.
For instance, Shea Murphy hinted about the unusual theme of the pub crawl’s country and western bar that he said, “I don’t think anyone will see coming.”
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: