In most traditional “Nutcracker” productions, Mother Ginger has charge of small children at a holiday gathering.

In this year’s version of Portland’s annual “Nutcracker Burlesque” adults-only revue, Mother Ginger commands a troupe of performing dancing girls — circa-2011 MTV-style dancing girls.

“That’s one of the new things this year — Mother Ginger as sort of a circus ringmaster with these girls who will perform,” said M.J. Emerson, who will play Mother Ginger. “It’s sort of a Pussycat Dolls take on things.”

Presented by the Vivid Motion dance company, “The Nutcracker Burlesque” has become a local holiday tradition in Portland. Now in its ninth year, the show puts a whimsical and somewhat racy spin on the traditional “Nutcracker” ballet.

It’s definitely not as risque as some burlesque versions of the “Nutcracker,” says Emerson, the company’s artistic director. But there’s enough provocative language and skin showing that children are not encouraged to attend.

“So much is oriented to families at the holidays that this is something just for grown-ups,” said Emerson. “Part of its allure is that there’s not a screaming baby or bored child sitting next to you.”

And it certainly has allure. The production sells out every year. This year, all seven shows — with more than 100 seats per show — sold out in less than a week. (There’s still a chance to get tickets, though — see the If You Go box.)

Emerson said there had been talk of maybe holding the shows in a larger venue to meet audience demand, but people involved with the show worry that a bigger venue might change the audience-performer relationship.

“It’s a space that really works for this show, and in a bigger space you might not see all the winks and little things like that,” she said.

Vivid Motion is a dance company that puts on shows throughout the year, but “just happens to make fun of the Nutcracker” this time of year, said Emerson. The company always keeps the basic form of the “Nutcracker,” with two acts, Clara as the female hero and most of the other characters.

But they make the situations more offbeat and more adult in nature, and they add new numbers every year, so people who see it annually don’t get bored.

This year, one new twist is that the Rat King is a good guy and the Nutcracker Prince is a debonair playboy, and Clara has to choose between them. Clara also has to try to control the drinking and merriment of her party guests, with the help of her friends, Naughty and Nice.

At one point, there is a dance performed by Snow Flakes. But these Snow Flakes are women wearing sheer capes that open to reveal lingerie.

“Each girl has picked the lingerie that makes her feel the sexiest,” Emerson said.

Another aspect of “Nutcracker Burlesque” that audiences like is the band, which plays all manner of pop music plus familiar “Nutcracker” music in innovative ways.

“When our band does the Spanish music, it sounds like Santana,” said Emerson. “And when they do the Russian, it sounds like a punk band playing it.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]


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