by Rachel Malehorn
Dancers! The troops of Nutcracker, we
Aspire to revisit, we strive to be
A tireless force of Christmas cheer
To fill the stages year after year.
We dance in roles we’ve always known
From smallest mouse to Prince on Throne.
What keeps us warm onstage as Snow,
Or feeds our need to improve…to grow?
Please don’t forget: show twenty-two
When you prepare for your pas de deux,
More like than not, in row twenty-three
A smile and two shining eyes will be
Watching you, this child enthralled.
Ballet! No over-crowded mall
Or cartoon special on TV
Could fill her heart with so much glee.
It’s old to you but new to her,
The costumes, lights and sets confer
Grand majesty and pomp and ‘stance;
For you, it’s just a boring dance.
No matter who you are or where,
We dance for audiences there.
They buy their tickets to watch our shows
But no one in his seat will know
Exactly what we have in mind;
To our thoughts, they are completely blind.
And so! An opportunity:
To reinvent my inner chemistry.
Today I sat up straight and said,
“The steps are marching through my head,
But PNB and ABT, SFB and Joffrey
All with different choreography.
But one thing never changes: score!
Tchaikovsky’s genius doesn’t bore…
Then I craved it, had to know:
“What other music for this show?”
And lo! (O thank you Internet)
My uttermost desires were met.
Perk up – my plums, my Cavs, my flakes,
And listen to this mix…those breaks!
A soundscape filled with classic tunes
Yet unexpected flair; I swoon
And smile to think of this instead –
Onstage, these songs inside my head:
We are a dancing multitude, we
Are diverse as art should be.
Each Sugar Plum herself unique,
Why not an inner techno beat?
And so, my friends, just for your pleasure,
I have compiled this list of treasures.
If you need an inner smile,
I hope these will be worth your while.
Variations on “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”
Pentatonix – A la Bobby McFerrin, this version features an arrangement almost entirely comprised of voices
Berlin Symphony Orchestra – this “Red Baron” remix has a sweet driving beat and plenty of synth. If you like Manheim Steamroller, you’ll love this.
Pomplamoose – If you’re feeling spaced out and would like to indulge in your otherworldly mood, listen to this version. You will feel as far away from this world as you already feel from reality.
August Burns Red – When you just need to get pumped up, and your favorite thing is lots of electric guitar.
Duke Ellington – His version of Sugar Plum Fairy is called “Sugar Rum Cherry,” and sounds just as sweet. This is part of his well-known arrangement of the rest of the Nutcracker Suite, which I would recommend if you need to class it up.
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones – For you, if you get inspired by listening to an incredibly talented banjo player.
Modern Mandolin Quartet – If you prefer mandolins.
Flex and the Bully – Ok, some of you might not know what dubstep is. I might describe it as an intravenous caffeine injection. Weird to listen to before a performance of The Nutcracker? Depends on who you are.
Woody Phillips – Love power tools? Love ballet? Listen to this!
The Barking Dogs – Love dogs? You get the idea…
Glove and Boots – Well, this is just silly. Gorilla sings Sugar Plum?
Brian Setzer – This isn’t the Sugar Plum Fairy, but it is a pretty great big band medley of Nutcracker favorites.
The Invincible Czars – A band worth listening to, especially if you are a sucker for bands that have formidable “shticks” that actually work. For Indie music lovers and people who love to hear classics totally reinvented and performed by talented, hip, young musicians.
Blue Claw Philharmonic – And finally, this album has as many options as you could ever want: for Sugar Plum alone, there is Dance EDM (Electronic Dance Music,) Jazz Big Band, Country Dance Music, Music Box (as in a tiny little music box given to children,) Dubstep, Grand Piano, Mashup, Metal Dubstep, Trap Hip Hop, Classical Guitar, Metal Remix, and Hip Hop.
Whatever your inspiration for your Nutcracker season, I hope at least these selections will put a smile on your face and allow you to listen with fresh ears to Tchaikovsky’s brilliant score. Happy Holidays!
Milwaukee Ballet’s Nutcracker will run from December 13th to December 27th.
Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Contributor Rachel Malehorn received her formal training at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and continued on to graduate from the prestigious Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II Program.
Since joining the Milwaukee Ballet, Malehorn has enjoyed performing works created by Val Caniparoli, Petr Zahradnícek, Mark Godden, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Jerry Opdenaker, Matthew Neenan and Alejandro Cerrudo. She has also performed as a semi-finalist in Palm Desert for the Dancing Beneath the Stars Competition, participated in the Northwest Professional Dance Project and danced with Texture Contemporary Ballet.
This is Malehorn’s eighth season with the Milwaukee Ballet.