Seeing The Nutcracker always gets me into the holiday spirit and Friday night's performance of the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker at Southern Methodist University's McFarlin Auditorium was no exception. The production is choreographed by Stanislav Vlasov of the Bolshoi Theatre (and uses canned music).
Aided by 94 students from 27 dance studios in North Texas, the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker tells the tale of a young girl, Masha (Karyna Shatkovskaya) and her beloved present, a Nutcracker. When she falls asleep she dreams of a land filled with mice, snowflakes, angels, a Snow Queen, a Rat King and of course, her Nutcracker Prince (Vladimir Tkachenko).
Kids in the audience were entranced by the production's elaborate set designs, bright-colored costumes and detailed lighting that transformed the stage into something straight out of a child's imagination. Mice scampered about, snow fell from the sky, and couples from around the world came to dance for Masha and her prince. More seasoned dance enthusiasts had the opportunity to see the Russian ballet style performed by Moscow Ballet's amazing dance technicians.
The Russian ballet style is not for everyone. Russian ballet dancers are taught to dance with their upper bodies slightly in front of their hips, giving them a sway back look. They are also known to dance with a rigid spine, which some people would say makes their movements look robotic. Russian dancers also like to break their wrists instead of maintaining a long line. All of these characteristics were evident in the Great Russian Nutcracker and I am a fan.
The dancers' movements were not robotic, but crisp and technically flawless. The pointe work was intricate, yet effortless.
The show's highlights included the Snow Queen dance, the Arabian variation and Masha and the Prince's grand pas de deux. The Arabian dancers, Sergei Chumakov and Elena Petrachenko, stole the show with their abnormally flexible bodies, death drops and sustained extensions. (See video below.)
The children's cast was promising. The little snowflakes were cute and cheeky while the party guests, mice, angels, butterflies and world dancers were adequate. While these dancers are young and have a long way to go in their training, performing in the Great Russian Nutcracker is not a bad place to start.
◊ Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance teacher based in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com.
Here's a video of the Arabian variation, with Chumakov and Petrachenko: