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It's a balletic riddle: When is "Nutcracker" not a "Nutcracker"?
Well, it's when it's Mystic Ballet's new version. This production keeps a kernel of the traditional story - this is still a coming-of-age story - and much of the Tchaikovsky score. Beyond that, though, it creates a fresh work that borrows, with a saucily placed exclamation point, the familiar title.
"A Mystic NUT! Cracker" features choreography by Mystic Ballet's resident director Sergei Vanaev and a story by Mystic Ballet's founder and director Goran Subotic.
"It's fresh. It's new. It's provocative. It's food for the imagination. It's food for people who want to see something different," Subotic says.
The story is about a teenage girl who is trying to figure out what her life will be. In this case, it's all happening in modern times, which is how she finds a Prince on Facebook. While she is growing up, her parents are mulling how their lives haven't been exactly what they had dreamed they would be.
The choreography calls upon both classical and contemporary dance. It's got a comic flair, too - hence some tangoing Santas.
For a ballet company, creating a "Nutcracker," even one that strays far from the traditional, is usually a box-office boon. As Subotic notes, American audiences tend to be drawn to shows whose titles they recognize. What's a more familiar name than "The Nutcracker"?
Yet, Mystic Ballet wants to give theatergoers something original, too.
Subotic says, "I'm fortunate that I'm surrounded by a group of creative minds. They need a challenge. They need something to work with, including myself."
Mystic Ballet's "A Mystic NUT! Cracker," Mashantucket Pequot Museum Auditorium, 110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket; 4 p.m. this Saturday, and 1 and 4 p.m. Dec. 12 and 19; $20, $35; (860) 536-1425, www.mysticballet.org.