The terms ballet and hip-hop generally don’t come up in the same conversation. For Heather’s Dance owner Heather Davis Fitts, bringing the two terms together makes perfect sense – these days, anyway.
Fitts is trying to make sure her Knightdale studio’s fourth rendition of “The Nutracker” is just as entertaining as its first. To do so, she’s added not only hip-hop, but also contemporary dance and a Rockettes number to the show, to be performed Dec. 12-14 to benefit the Raleigh Rescue Mission.
Tchaikovsky, Petipa and Ivanov need not roll over in their graves. The more modern dance forms will sandwich a traditional serving of the two-act ballet.
“I wanted to do it to make it different,” Fitts said of bringing a mix of genres to the production. “It’s really not about just “The Nutcracker;” it’s about bringing the art of dance to the community. The whole idea behind it was for the audience to have fun and bring surprise and entertainment.”
The Rockettes open the show high kicking to “Here Comes Santa Claus,” followed by a contemporary piece during a set change leading up to the ballet portion. The last act is a hip-hop version of “The Little Drummer Boy.”
Fitts and college friend Micah Geyer, now a professional dancer in Philadelphia, are set to perform the contemporary dance to “O Holy Night.” Geyer also choreographed the Arabian dancers piece in the second act of the ballet. Joe-Joe Smith, another of Fitts’ college friends who dances professionally in Los Angeles, set the choreography for the show’s finale.
“It’s an honor for me that people I performed with at (East Carolina) are professionally living the dream and will come here to perform in the show,” Fitts said. “And it is good exposure for the kids to see – it gives them goals to work for and shows them how their hard work pays off.”
The cast is mainly composed of about 75 students ages 5-18 from Heather’s Dance, and there will be some guest appearances by parents of the students.
“The kids just love it,” Fitts said of this year’s arrangement. “They were very excited about adding changes to it and it’s been a good experience for them to learn the choreography of Rockettes material. That piece was very challenging and they’ve done really well.”
Fitts says putting on a good show is fun, but she stresses to her students the importance of remembering why they established the charity performance in 2011.
The effort has grown steadily since that first year – adding fundraisers like a 5K run, Breakfast with Santa and a silent auction with all proceeds benefiting the shelter for the homeless. On their own, students have organized fundraisers through bake sales and yard sales, donated personal items and given up their free time for the cause over the years. They’ve also sought donations from local businesses and individuals in the community.
“It doesn’t matter if they fail and it’s not anything about making them look great,” Fitts said of her students. “Its about helping other people who are in need.”