A funky, modern version of the classic tale

Margaret Lincoln for the Independent Record

And very little Tchaikovsky.

But it’s a Nutcracker holiday tradition, all the same.

And in this version, you just might see your Helena neighbors of all ages up on stage.

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Cohesion Dance Project takes a Christmas classic and tells it with a twist – with the help of the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday and the Velvet Underground.


Photo Courtesy of Chris McGowan


Cohesion Dance Project takes a Christmas classic and tells it with a twist – with the help of the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday and the Velvet Underground.

Performances of “Shira Greenberg’s Nutcracker on the Rocks” are Thanksgiving weekend: 7:30 pm Saturday, Nov. 26, and 2 pm Sunday, Nov. 27, at the Helena Civic Center.

This will be Cohesion Dance Project’s eighth year presenting this high energy tale of a young girl — Marie — who receives the gift of a Nutcracker that comes to life. In a dream, she and the Nutcracker Prince travel through the Land of Snow where they are entertained by dancers from the ’20s, ’50s and ’60s.







Nutcracker on the Rocks

Performances of “Shira Greenberg’s Nutcracker on the Rocks” are Thanksgiving weekend: 7:30 pm Saturday, Nov. 26, and 2 pm Sunday, Nov. 27, at the Helena Civic Center.


Photo Courtesy of Chris McGowan


Artistic director and choreographer Tanya Call describes first encountering the show when she danced it in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with Keshet Dance Company from 2003 to 2008.

“It just spoke to my heart with its openness, its diversity, its welcoming of everybody of all ages and abilities,” she said.

When she moved back to Helena, Call got permission to stage it here. “It should be produced all over the world – it’s that powerful.”

Since Call had danced numerous parts in the show, Greenberg was comfortable allowing it to be produced in Helena, Call said.

Since Keshet retired the show in Albuquerque, Helena is the only community performing “Nutcracker on the Rocks.”

“I think she had this idea of ​​opening up dance to anyone and everybody,” said Call of Greenberg. “Her desire was to create something new and different… a funky, modern version of the Nutcracker.”







Nutcracker on the Rocks

This will be Cohesion Dance Project’s eighth year presenting “Nutcracker on the Rocks.”


Photo Courtesy of Chris McGowan


This year, there are over 50 Helena community dancers plus four lead professional dancers. Local leads include Julynn Wildman as Madam Drosselmeier and Kristine Fife as Marie’s mom. Visiting artists are Sarah Dassinger of Great Falls, Mikal (Fife) Monn of Rexburg, Idaho (originally from Helena), and New York City-based Luciano Castaldo.

The last time the community saw it was in 2019 because “Nutcracker on the Rocks” took a two-year hiatus during COVID.

“It’s a really exciting show,” added Call. “It’s great music. And it’s inspiring. It’s really powerful to see the different types of people, the different ages and levels of dancers from beginners to advanced. It’s motivating and it’s uplifting.”

The show is always fresh because the choreography changes to fit the cast. “It’s a different cast every year. Half the cast has never been in the show before.”







Nutcracker on the Rocks

This year, there are over 50 Helena community dancers plus four lead professional dancers in “Nutcracker on the Rocks.”


Photo Courtesy of Chris McGowan


For Julynn Wildman, dancing in “Nutcracker on the Rocks” is a way for her to reconnect as an adult with her passion for dancing. This will be her sixth year in the show.

“The choreography works for my particular training and dance background,” she said. “It’s nice to do modern- and jazz-based dance, not just ballet,” and not having to have rigorous ballet training.

“This year I’m dancing Madame Drosselmeier. It’s fun to bring … positivity and magic and sparkle to the role.

“I think the show is just very easy to like. It brings a lot of fun music and a lot of different dance styles together.

“The performance speaks to a lot of different people from a lot of different walks of life.”

Community dancer Melinda White started dancing in “Nutcracker on the Rocks” its very first year in 2013.

She was in a Zumba class and a fellow class member urged her to try out.

That class member is now a really good friend.

That’s one of the things White loves about “Nutcracker on the Rocks.” “It’s inclusive and friendly. We’re having so much fun! People are welcomed regardless of socioeconomic class or physical abilities. You’re embraced.

“It’s really something special that Tanya’s created.”

And White loves the music.

“The ’60s is my jam.” She loves dancing to the music of Janis Joplin and “Hair” as part of dancing through the decades in the second act.

White also danced earlier in her life – ballet and jazz, but hadn’t danced in a performance for 30 years, until “Nutcracker on the Rocks” came around. “Just being able to dance as an adult in this town is really neat.”

“It’s fun and it’s funny and it’s lighthearted. It’s just so joyous to watch,” she said of why people should see it. “There’s just joy in it all.”

Tickets are available through the Helena Civic Center at 406-447-8481 or online at www.helenaciviccenter.com. Ticket prices are $15-$35 with group and student rates available. Reserved seating only.

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