November 30, 2004

Sugarplum Jam By Keshet

* Dance company's 'Nutcracker' set to the Stones, Aretha and Tchaikovsky

The first thing Tanya Call did when she moved to Albuquerque two years ago was find a dance studio.

"First, it was a dance company, then a job, then a house," she said.

She's been dancing for the last 25 years in Montana, and made it a priority to find a place she could fit in.

After two days in Albuquerque, she found Keshet Dance Co. and fit like a glove in the company's repertory theater group.

The studio's modern dance and community approach made her feel welcome, she said.

Now, Call will be performing her biggest role ever for Keshet: Marie, in Keshet's eighth annual production of "Nutcracker on the Rocks," an award-winning modern take on the classic holiday tale of a girl who's taken off to a fantabulous land during a dream.

Though Marie is the star character in the ballet, Call said, "It's interesting because this dance company does things differently. It's not like anything is put on a pedestal. I just feel like part of the cast."

Marie is whisked off to a land full of swing dancers, hippies and roaring '20s flappers by a cute guy she met at a party who slays a rat king on a Harley.

Wait a second, that's not how the story goes.

"In our version, it's a land of magic and unlimited possibilities," said Shira Greenberg, Keshet's founder and artistic director.

In this modern take on the classic ballet, Marie -- or Clara in the traditional version -- is taken by the Nutcracker though a time warp of '20s, '50s and '60s dances, set to the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin.

It's a big change from the original, which is set to the classic P.I. Tchaikovsky score of teetering flutes, drawing violins and crashing symbols.

"Well, it starts and ends with Tchaikovsky so everybody knows they're in the right theater," said Greenberg. "The storyline is very similar."

Similar, but different.

Call it more Wizard of Ozzfest.

Marie falls asleep after a giant party where guests jam to Velvet Underground and Billie Holiday.

"The same thing happens, she falls asleep and the magic happens," Greenberg said.

But, instead of being awakened by the Nutcracker, she's awakened by a cute guy she met at the party, only to find Madame Drosselmeyer riding up on a custom Harley-Davidson with an army of evil rats.

Of course, the cute guy proves his mettle and wins the girl's heart by slaying the rat army.

Instead of the series of ethnic dances the original is know for, Marie is taken to see a series of 20th-century dances, set to the Rolling Stones and James Brown.

The dances are performed by the largest cast ever in "Nutcracker on the Rocks."

"This year the cast is 85 people," Greenberg said. "They're all ages, experiences and abilities. A lot of them dance from their wheelchairs and it's a beautiful scene."

"We're still trying to tell a story," Call said. "We want to present it to the audience as it's supposed to be."

If you go

WHAT: "Nutcracker on the Rocks"

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4; 2 p.m. Dec. 5, and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11, and 2 p.m. Dec. 12

WHERE: Rodey Theatre, in UNM's Center for the Arts

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $20, or $18 for students and seniors. Group rates also available. Call the UNM box office at 925-5858 or visit for tickets