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So, You've Seen the Nutcracker…What's Next?

So, You've Seen the Nutcracker…What's Next?

With the holidays fast approaching, we’re all searching for last minute stocking stuffers.

Tickets to a performance make a great gift because:

1)      it’s not a fruitcake or a sweater;

2)      it shows you know the person well enough to at least guess what he or she might like;

3)      if you buy a matching ticket for yourself, it’s a great way to say, “you’re awesome, let’s spend some time together.”

So now that all my friends have a hint of what they’re getting, it’s just a matter of narrowing down the incredible range of art available in the Garden State.  I’m the new dance blogger here at Culture Vultures, I’m going to focus on opening up the dance world to the casual dance watcher- someone like my mother, who regularly watches the television dance shows, who saw Nutcracker a decade ago, but who enjoys a wide range of arts.

Frankly, the first thing I think about is not so much dance, but music. Music is often so important to establishing the atmosphere of a dance work; familiar music provides an instant connection for the casual fan. There’s an abundance of accessible performances in the holiday season, from various encarnations of the Nutcracker, to dance performances set to jazz variants and choral arrangements (LKB at George Street Playhouse).

The next option I’m looking for is a range of work and style. Part of the charm of a show like So You Think You Can Dance is the breadth of work explored- a purist could argue that the judges favor ballet lines and complicated lifts a little too much, but if you’re going to help a budding dance lover appreciate everything the art has to offer, you’ve got to start somewhere. Just after the holiday, the APAP conference decends on New York City, and those of us close enough to get in to the city for an evening of dance can reap the benefits.  Many of the region’s best dance companies will be appearing at one or more venues January 8, 9 and 10 in showcases that are incredibly cheap (or even free!). A trip into Ailey Citigroup Theatre (9th and 55th) on Sunday afternoon is a chance to see Jersey’s own Freespace Dance and Gehring Dancetheatre among a slew of showcases, one nearly every 15 minutes. Sunday night brings the Dance Gotham festival at the Skirball Center, which is a great chance to see eight companies in a single evening at a low price (full disclosure, my employer, Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, is on the program).

The final thing I consider when trying to get someone to stretch their love of art to include dance is the production- a part of the success of the television dance shows is in the theatrics.  A quick search of the Discover Jersey Arts roster (click dance in the search box on the right hand side) followed by a trip to YouTube gives me a chance to sample a variety of dance companies. My mother loves the theater, so I’ll pick a ticket that promises to tell a story and show off a dance (though I’m not willing to tell just which show we’re going to see until after Christmas!). Scroll through the listings- ballet, modern, folk dance, tango… there really is something for everyone. And, if you’re really stumped--guess. A ticket and a night out always beats a fruitcake.

Black Nativity

Black Nativity

Les Miserables Reboots at Paper Mill Playhouse.

Les Miserables Reboots at Paper Mill Playhouse.