Step aside, Sugar Plum Fairy! Enter the Kwanzaa Kween.

rachel-smallMuch as we love the chiming celesta that signals an indelible ballet escapade, that of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the beloved holiday favorite, “The Nutcracker,” we’ve also grown to love another special solo.

I’m calling it the Kwanzaa Kween — a ballet divertissement porting a heady tinge of the African continent.

The dance is performed to a fussilage of African drumming that propels the entire “Harambe Suite” developed by Los Angeles choreographer Lula Washington in 1988 and now under the steady annual oversight of Tamica Washington-Miller, who is associate director of Lula Washington Dance Theatre and its school. 

The role is performed on pointe with a ballerina clad in possibly the greatest tutu ever designed — the tutu raffia

The Kwanzaa show just completed three sold-out peformances for its 2013 exhibition, powered, as always, by a barrage of sound emanating from a line-up of African drummers on view in the slideshow below. 

We’ve enjoyed watching this distinctive solo danced by other ballerinas in the past; this year we equally enjoyed a fleet dancer in the role — afterward delighted to learn that this Kween’s name is Rachel McSween.

photo credit: Mesiyah McGinnis, photo archivist, Lula Washington Dance Theatre


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