The bad news is that Lil Buck, Memphis' international jookin' ambassador who wowed hometown audiences in last season's Nut ReMix, won't be performing in New Ballet Ensemble's retooled take on The Nutcracker this year. He's on the road dancing with Madonna's Rebel Heart tour and promoting a newly launched line of sneakers, Lil Buck for Versace. Okay, maybe there's nothing bad about that news at all, especially considering the lineup for this year's holiday treat.
Nut ReMix fuses classical performances with Memphis street style. It moves Tchaikovsky's seasonal favorite to Beale Street and infuses the story with international flavors. The reimagined piece showcases the talents of 145 dancers including New Ballet Ensemble (NBE) jookin' standouts Shamar Rooks and Marquez "Spider" Alexander, as well as ballerina Briana Brown, who accepted NBE's National Youth Program Award from Michelle Obama last year. Maxx Reed, whose professional credits include dancing for Michael Jackson and playing the high-swinging title role in Broadway's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, will also perform.
Music for Nut ReMix will be provided by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mei-Ann Chen, who is leaving her position with the symphony in 2016. Symphony player and arranger Sam Shoup scored the ballet's climatic hip-hop battle between the Rat King and the Nutcracker.
Reed is another fantastic NBE success story. When the company's founder Katie Smythe saw him dancing on the street in Cooper-Young and asked him if he'd like to train with her school and company, Reed's answer was an unequivocal: "No!" So Smythe bribed him with tickets to a dance performance at Germantown Performing Arts Center, and that did the trick. In addition to playing the world's most popular superhero eight shows a week for five years running and being hand-picked to audition for the King of Pop, Reed has appeared in numerous commercials and music videos. Not too shabby for a kid who wasn't the least bit interested in jumping around in tights.