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Not your average Nutcracker: 'Land of the Sweets' returns

Six dancers dressed in blue-ish dresses with a fur trim and heels stand center stage in front of a background of snow and the jazz band.
Angela Sterling
Verlaine & McCann
'Land of the Sweets' incorporates elements of burlesque and ballet in its production which is all set to a live jazz band.

A Seattle holiday tradition has returned for its 16th year. Land of the Sweets runs through Dec. 30 at The Triple Door. The show reinterprets the beloved ballet, The Nutcracker, into a burlesque with live jazz, acrobatics, and memorable costumes.

Lily Verlaine, one of the show's co-creators and also a performer, said she wanted to create a show that reflected the world she wanted to live in.

"From the beginning, it simply felt correct and natural for me to put all of the artists on equal footing. And that is a theme that has continued as we welcome new artists who have varying types of gender expression, you know, different heights, different weights, different skin tones," Verlaine said.

"One thing that really holds true to me is our motto 'peace, love and glamour,' applies to all. We all dance in heels, we all wear fur, we all cover ourselves in glitter, and we're all equal," Verlaine said.

The show also changes the plot of the story. Instead of following the Nutcracker and Clara, audiences are guided by a Dean Martin-esque host who is throwing a holiday party. The Sugar Plum Fairy and the Rat King are just two of the guests who make an appearance.

Unlike classical ballet, Land of the Sweets takes a gender-blind approach to casting and costuming. And because of that, it provides an opportunity for dancers from all backgrounds. One of those people is Paris Original.

One of the two featured dancers in the show’s tea scene, Paris Original – that’s their stage name – had been told never to dance ballet “on pointe,” as someone with a male body. But there was a place for them to do so in Land of the Sweets, Paris Original dances pointe right alongside other dancers.

"All these little things about how I dance and move that had been fought against by every artistic director all of those things were suddenly being celebrated and showcased," Original said. "And so, yeah, it kind of feels like home to be in a space where you can be authentically you and people love you for it. "

Original is now in their tenth year doing the show and says the creative freedom is why they keep coming back.

Grace Madigan is KNKX's former Arts & Culture reporter. Her stories focused on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.