Peppermint-Stick Dick Jokes Were Unavoidable As Viva’s Hosted The Sixth Annual Nearly Naked Nutcracker.
As if we needed more more terrifying evidence of a nefarious Russian influence on our American way of life, there’s evidence that Putin’s loyalists have been infiltrating our local burlesque troupes for as many as six years now. Seems some fool named Tchaikovsky has been tampering with this precious resource, and I’m ashamed to admit he may have made the fairies dance with their sugarplums out.
Isn’t that great?
Before your eyes roll back in your head with the stale memory of soporific childhood field trips to holiday matinées at the Dallas Music Hall, relax. Sure, you’ll catch a few memorable measures of your favorite tunes from ballet. Or maybe it’s familiar from the Nutcracker Suite, Tchaikovsky’s condensed greatest hits from the ballet that served to popularize the music in Europe and the U.S. before even choreographer George Balanchine made it an American holiday staple that today represents nearly half of U.S. ballet companies’ annual income. And there may have been some proud parents there, but if they were coming to see their sons and daughters performing little marzipan dances, they were in for a big surprise.
Because, of course, this was the 6th annual iteration of the Nearly Naked Nutcracker, which as an abiding burlesque tradition that is more about boobs and butts than it is about bonbons and ballet. Still, the conceit of doing a burlesque version of The Nutcracker has always been that there will be real-live ballet specialists doing real-live ballet, but with more visible body parts, more visible. NNN has always delivered in this regard — plenty of your favorite burlesque performers have a background in ballet, it turns out — and this year was no exception, with visiting artists Emma D’Lemma (Houston) and Leggy Lass Greenleaf (Los Angeles) spending a the greater portion of their Friday night performances up on their tippy-toes.
And since this was NNN’s first performance at Viva’s, Dallas’ nearly year-old dedicated burlesque performance venue, producer Vivienne Vermuth was able to achieve a few other milestones, too. Previous NNN’s have been generously hosted at Trees, which has provided the benefits of killer lights and sound, a professional bar-staff, and a central location. But by moving to a more theater-like venue, the production was able to expand into two nights and really explore the narrative threads that could be woven through the performance. The result, while it certainly takes liberties with the original libretto, is still recognizable as referencing the ballet by way of clever set design, costumes, character names (if not necessarily characterizations) and event-specific choreography — no easy task when nearly 20 performers are converging from around Dallas, Texas and the country at large for two nights of performances.
The 10-foot-tall Nutcracker greeting patriots at the door and posing for some very awkwardly framed selfies lent himself willingly to the obligatory and facile cracked nuts jokes. Co-host (and thematically incongruous “magician”) Mr. Snapper managed to squeeze what sounded like his new band name “Pole Soldier” out of Olive Avira’s performance. There was also no avoiding making a peppermint-stick dick joke, but reigning San Antonio King of Burlesque J.D.Hickcock managed to commingle it smoothly with a Russian dance act.
Ah, those damned Russians again.
All signs — and by signs we mean happy producers, performers, busy vendors, and sell-out crowds of happy date-night couples, girls-night-outers, and trilby-sporting loners — point to this year’s NNN doing everything it could to reinforce a strong tradition, even hinting at becoming as important to the end-of-year holiday season as the Dallas Burlesque Festival is to the Valentines’ spring season in Dallas’ ever-more inclusive, body-celebrating and LGBTQ-friendly burlesque calendar.