Cleveland: Hardening the Nutcracker

In an inner-city school, the Christmas classic gets a streetwise makeover

If it's December, this must be The Nutcracker. With Christmas just days away, hardly a dancer in America isn't appearing in a production of the best loved of all classic ballets. But the Nutcracker being presented through this weekend by the Cleveland School of the Arts, a public magnet school whose 658 students come from some of the city's poorest neighborhoods, bears little resemblance to the traditional versions that fill most theaters at this time of year. Tchaikovsky's romantic score has been replaced by the blunt, insistent boom of a drummer pounding out rhythms on a plastic bucket. Marie, the little...

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