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‘So You Think You Can Dance’ winner Russell Ferguson to star in ‘Urban Nutcracker’

Kassmin Williams | 11/14/2013, 6 a.m.
Ksusha Melyukhina and Russell Ferguson in the “Urban Nutcracker.” Photo courtesy of Peter Paradise RavenWolfe Photography

“So You Think You Can Dance” season six winner Russell Ferguson may be known across the nation for his krumping skills as the first krump dancer to win the competition show, but the Boston native will prove he’s more than a hip-hop dancer when he takes the stage as a star in this year’s “Urban Nutcracker.”

The show, which meshes different dance styles in a modern twist on the classic two-part ballet, returns to John Hancock Hall, Dec. 6 to Dec. 22. Some of those styles include classical ballet, urban tap, hip hop, swing, flamenco, step and jazz.

Ferguson first appeared in the “Urban Nutcracker,” as a self-taught tap dancer, while in high school.

The “Urban Nutcracker” founder Tony Williams called Ferguson “versatile” and compared his level of talent to Russian dancer, choreographer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov.

“He’s someone that if he wasn’t the great krumper, hip-hop pop and locker winner of 2009’s [‘So You Think You Can Dance’], he could’ve been a Baryshnikov in ballet. He’s got that kind of talent,” Williams said.

Ferguson credits his involvement in dance to his mom who put him in his first dancing school at about 5 years old after realizing her son’s talent.

“I was just a natural — music would come on and I could do what I saw,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson will appear in the popular prologue that features a face-off between two different genres of dance.

Ferguson will compete against professional dancer Khalid Hill, who directed the “Urban Nutcracker” for nine seasons and taught tap at the Tony Williams Dance Center.

Hill starred in the original prologue where he went up against former “Urban Nutcracker” instructor Ricardo Foster, who taught hip hop at the dancing school.

Ferguson will also appear in dance scenes Soldier Doll and Caviar Caper.

Although Ferguson’s talent as a krump dancer landed him on a nationally known show, Ferguson, who was exposed to many dance styles, views each genre equally.

“Ballet is very much a part of my life and is a part of my technique,” Ferguson said. “All dance is dance to me. I have the same preference about every dance I do.”

This year’s show will also feature Yo-el Cassell as Minimeyer, fifth year performer Gino DiMarco as Drossellmeyer, Russian ballerina Ksusha Melyukhina, singers from Pro Arte Ochestra and the Boston Pops and members of the 1950s doo wop group, the G-Clefs.

Williams has added a new scene to this year’s show inspired by children’s picture book “Make Way for Ducklings,” illustrated by Robert McCloskey.

In past years, the back drop of the snow scene in the show depicted the Public Garden with the State House’s gold dome in the background and swan boats, statues, and ducks.

This year, the statues will be live on stage, Williams said.

The “Urban Nutcracker,” often called the “Boston Nutcracker,” began in 2001 after Williams opened his Tony Williams Dance Center studio in 2000 and had a good amount of boys enroll.

The school, which now has about 300 students, opened with 15 boys and 50 girls, Williams said.

“I was amazed to have so many young boys,” Williams said. “That year I was thinking how I can do performance with these boys and thought I should do ‘The Nutcracker.’”

The first shows, held at the Strand Theatre, sold out, Williams said.

Tickets range from $25 to $65 with special Director’s Seats for $85. Tickets can be purchased in advance by visiting backbayeventscenter.com or calling Vendini at 888-597-1027.