Christmas classic gets new twist in Milwaukee’s own 'Flamenco Nutcracker'

NOW: Christmas classic gets new twist in Milwaukee’s own ’Flamenco Nutcracker’

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – Even the classics are bound for a couple of rewrites through the years. Kerensa Demars, Marija Temo, and Maria Valentina Delgado have been working to re-compose the globally renowned Nutcracker, by adding a new Hispanic flare.

This is the fourth year the Flamenco Nutcracker takes the stage in Milwaukee, each year with new changes and bigger crowds. Audiences will note the switch from the classic Tchaikovsky to Flamenco within just 10 notes of the Sugar Plum Fairy. “You look at the piece and think, what can I do to flamenco-ize it?” said Marija Temo, music director, composer arranger, guitarist and singer for the Flamenco Nutcracker.

She goes on to explain how she re-composed this Christmas classic into something we’ll all still recognize, while celebrating different cultures. “The overall feel is I take the Tchaikovsky Sugar Plum story and make it into a guajira flamenco form with a Cuban influence. It's very well mixed between classical and flamenco. We never abandon the complete Tchaikovsky. It’s very immersed and well-versed together. I’m very proud of that. Respecting Tchaikovsky's work as well as taking that and incorporating it into flamenco.”

Alongside Temo is Kerensa Demars, the Artistic Director and creator of the Flamenco Nutcracker. “We call it an arte vivo, a live artform. It continues to evolve while keeping a strong cultural base. That’s what we try to do to keep with traditions and do something a little innovative and fun.”

She says this unique idea arose when someone asked if she’d take her daughter to see the Ballet Nutcracker. She thought, “what if I could take her to see the Flamenco Nutcracker?” From there, the ideas started surging in. Especially when she saw the Sugar Plum Fairy reimagined, donning a traditional andalucian train dress and castanets. To move the long dress, she says, requires special techniques which take years to learn.

It wasn’t just the music and wardrobe that was altered. You’ll notice some slight changes to the characters too. “In our Nutcracker, instead of the little girl Clara getting a nutcracker doll, she gets a matador doll. He comes to life and dances with a cape. Instead of defeating the mouse king to run off to the enchanted forest, he battles a Raven Queen. It becomes a flamenco dance element with a cane which is an element of a percussive - so it’s a battle of the footwork,” shares DeMars.

Some footwork that brings a new breath into a ballet many see year after year.

The pianist for the show is Delgado, who has only ever been trained classically. This is her first time playing Flamenco-style music and composing. She says though, it’s been a lot of fun: “I love the spontaneity, the freedom it has, the rhythm, the passion. Everything about it. I've heard it before but I've never been right here with the foot tapping, energizing. I love it.”

Through these new compositions, you’ll hear a little bit of Russia through Tchaikovsky, Spain through Flamenco, and even Latin America too. “The Latin community will hear the Venezuelan joropo which is also from other countries. And they’ll know that rhythm and the rhythm of flamenco will resemble the rhythms of the latin community,” shared Delgado.

“The Spanish language, Latin culture, there is passion in that! I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to bring that here. It’s beautiful to bring something new to Milwaukee. There’s a birthplace to this production and I hope it continues to grow and be accessible to all,” said Temo.

The shows are on Saturday, Dec. 9th at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. You can buy tickets here.

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