Story by Barbara Angelakis
Photos by Manos Angelakis
Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker
I have seen so many performances of The Nutcracker, in so many venues, with so many different companies, that I thought I was immune to being enchanted; but the performance by the Moscow Ballet’s touring company really blew my mind. I have never seen a more colorful, captivating and entertaining rendition.
The opening party scene which I have always found to be somewhat dark and removed from the joyful fantasy aspect of the ballet -- perhaps reflecting the original book the ballet was based on -- in this production, the fantasy begins at curtain up. The curtain rises to the opening notes of Tchaikovsky’s well known and beloved score to a brightly lit room highlighted by a decorated Christmas tree topped with a glowing star.
Uncle Drosselmeyer (the good magician) danced and acted superbly by Yevhenii Kuchvar, has brought the Kissy Doll and Harlequin toys along with huge Matrushka/Nesting Dolls to entertain the guests. The Kissy Doll, danced by Svetiana Lisniak, and the Harlequin danced by Dmytro Kholodnyi, also danced the “Spanish Variation” together but their interpretation of the dolls displayed their comedic and acting talents to perfection. Uncle Drosselmeyer’s part has been expanded to include him in most of the activities and he acted almost as a master of ceremonies connecting all aspects of the ballet.
Ladies and gentlemen are opulently dressed in late 19th century finery of every hue imaginable as they dance around to the familiar score. The costumes and stage settings were bursting with color giving this production a lightness and gaiety missing in other productions I have seen. Our heroin Masha is much beloved by her Uncle Drosselmeyer and he has brought a special Christmas gift for her. After all the children have been given presents, Masha is presented with the Nutcracker Prince. The guests leave and Masha falls asleep dreaming of adventures with her Nutcracker Prince. The mouse invasion and the Rat King are innocuously performed by a group of children and Roman Zakurakin, a principle dancer.
The first act ends with the dreamy dance in the Snow Forest as the snow maidens dance in the falling snow.
The second act opens with a strikingly beautiful “Dove of Peace”. The Dove stands upright with one wing extended while his other wing is entwined with his upside down other half who he holds suspended in air. Flawlessly danced by Elena Petrichenko and Sergey Chumakov the duo separates, one wing attached to each half. This company has been performing in the U.S. for over 25 years advocating for world peace and this dance is a culmination of their philosophy of working together in a shared destiny.
The dove escorts Masha and her Nutcracker Prince on a journey through the five lands where they are entertained by African, Asian, European, Hispanic and Slavic dances. In the Moscow Ballet’s version each of the dancing couples are accompanied by huge playful kid-friendly animals symbolizing the various world cultures. The Dove is meant to symbolize yearning for universal Peace; the Chinese Firebird symbolizes Prosperity; The Arabian Elephant symbolizes Wisdom; the French Unicorn represents Imagination; the Spanish Bull is Daring and the Russian Bear portrays Strength.
Notable were the leaps of Dmytro Kholodnyi and the fancy foot-work of his charming partner Olena Badalova in the Chinese Variation. But the hands-down audience pleaser was the sinuous athleticism of the Arabian Variation danced by Elena Petrichenko and Sergey Chumakov, which was truly awesome.
Of course the venue of the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, New York only added to the enjoyment of the production. Originally built in 1929 as a mixed film and live performance theater by Loew’s, a major entertainment company, it was hailed as one of the most beautiful in the nation. It was one of the five “Loew’s Wonder Theaters” built. Now after a $95 million restoration replicating its original glory the theater is truly a wonder to behold.
On the whole the company was very professional, focusing on both strength and good humor, but their outreach to incorporate members of the local communities in the areas in which they perform to participate, is truly awe inspiring. Sasha Obama was among a group of children selected to join the cast for two performances of the Nutcracker some years back. Dressed as a mouse she is only one of thousands of both children and adults selected to participate in the “Dance with Us” outreach the Moscow Ballet offers.
Visit their site to learn more about the company and their upcoming performances:
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